Domains

generic domain name

Vaporize the dot com

Is a family run business and was started to help spread the word on vaporization and show the world that there is a better way to get the benefits from plants and essential oils.  Damon Inlow is the owner of Vaporizers.ca and took some time to discuss with me.

Mike:  Damon, you have a category-defining keyword domain for your website.  Did you register this domain through the normal process or did you purchase the name on the aftermarket?  Tell us about the process.

Damon:  Back in 2005, there was only a handful of American Vaporizer dealers, and we were the only Canadian vaporizer dealer. Not many people even knew about the concept of using herbs with vaporizers and very few people sold them. One big advantage of being the first vaporizer dealer in Canada is that we did have our pick of .ca domains. We decided to go with vaporizers.ca through the normal registration process.

Mike:  The tld of your domain is dot ca, which represents Canada.  How well have you found this tld to work for you as compared to a dot com name?

Damon:  With our product, we wanted to focus on the Canadian market. The .ca has been good for that, but it certainly limits your United States rankings and search exposure. If your goal is North America, you definitely want a .com as well as a .ca. For a focus on the Canadian market only, the .ca domains are a great choice.

Mike:  I don’t smoke or vape.  The site mentions “a much safer and healthier alternative to smoking.”  Is that a scientific fact or merely a guess based on limited information available?

Damon:  Smoking is combustion; combustion produces tars and other toxins. If you remove the smoke part and vaporize, you then only get the essence of the herb. Some herbs, like tobacco, are still bad news, but most herbs are safe when vaporized. There are many studies on vaporization, mostly medical, that are easy enough to find. Israel has done a lot of those studies.

Mike:  I’m not familiar with the laws regarding the devices.  Are there laws in Canada and the US regulating the sale?  Does that complicate things for you?

Damon:  Vaporizers can be used with hundreds of legal herbs so there are no laws against them. The American Government tried to cause problems over a decade ago, but they lost in court. The court clearly saw how many legal herbs you can vaporize and its medical uses. We have dealt with many non-legal complications like PayPal issues and advertising restrictions.

Mike:  Do you do any advertising outside of organic search engine results?  Do you use Google AdWords or any other paid advertising results?  If so, what has been your experience?

Damon:  We use organic searches as well as some limited advertising. AdWords blocked Vaporizers many years ago as well as Facebook. It was a very unpleasant experience at first as they were very ignorant of the benefits of vaporizing and the policies were not clear at all.

Mike:  What has been the biggest challenge running an online business?  How have you navigated this?

Damon:  Getting the page setup and getting those initial sales is tough for sure but we find the biggest challenges are the logistics. Not only getting the inventory to us but shipping across the country. Takes a lot of work and shipping is always a loss money wise. Every year rates go up and we lose more money on shipping. You can go dropship, but it’s hard to find a reliable one you can trust. Customer satisfaction is key and if your dropshipper fails, you fail.

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Shocking Interview

Kelly Bedrich is the Co-founder of ElectricityPlans.com and President of Cypress Capital Ventures. He is an IT entrepreneur focused on acquiring, marketing, and improving e-commerce sites. His current emphasis is on taking ideas from startup to maturity with sustainable business benefits.

Kelly is skilled at building and executing strategic initiatives by leading global product teams and guiding technical teams to bring results-oriented businesses to life. He is driven to build and develop efficient operational sites that maximize sales and marketing pipelines through low cost of customer acquisition and high retention.

Mike:  Kelly, what got you interested in comparing utility plans?

Kelly:  Good question. My co-founder and I both live in Texas, which has had an active retail energy deregulation market since around 2002. Like most Texans, we would have to choose our electricity provider and sign a new contract every year or so. To do that, we would usually visit the comparison site operated by the Texas Public Utility Commission called Power To Choose. The last few times we did this, we became increasingly confused and frustrated by their site and knew there had to be a better way. We wanted to answer some basic questions like:

  • What would be the $ amount of my utility bill if I chose a specific plan?
  • Why does Texas have 3 electricity rates on each plan?
  • What’s the catch with the teaser rates that appeared to be too good to be true?

The PUC site and other comparison sites in the market weren’t doing these things, so we decided to start our own. We focus on rate transparency and quality content that explains some of the inner workings of the retail electricity industry so that customers can make informed choices and save money in the process.

Mike:  Were you the first to register  ElectricityPlans.com and NaturalGasPlans.com  or were these domains you purchased on the aftermarket?

Kelly:  We acquired ElectricityPlans.com in late 2015 from a broker. However, we were able to purchase the .net version as well as both NaturalGasPlans.com and .net in 2016 as new domains. We launched ElectricityPlans.com in early 2017.

Mike:  Explain your business model.  How do the sites generate revenue?  Do you get a cut if someone switches providers?

Kelly: That’s correct. Like most comparison sites we are basically a matchmaker between buyers and sellers. Our focus is for the buyers (electricity shoppers) to find the best possible rate for their needs. To make this happen, we get paid a small commission from our retail electricity partners if a customer signs up for one of their plans. We do this both through affiliate links and through direct APIs with the electricity providers. We also have a free electricity shopping service for Texas customers where we compare a customer’s usage to our database and select the right plan for them.

Mike:  How well do your sites rank in Google?  ElectricityPlans.com comes up on the first page when I search for “Electricity Plans” (without quotes).  Did you have to put any extra effort into that ranking?

Kelly:  Since our industry is highly competitive on specific keywords, we don’t focus much on how our overall site ranks in Google or Bing. However, we religiously watch how certain keywords rank for us. Our customers typically don’t search for ‘electricity plans’ but instead search for keywords that vary by different states. We currently have 382 keywords (including variants) that appear in the top 10 slots on Google. We also have similar numbers on Bing. We’ve accumulated these results through classic SEO techniques like content focus and site authority.

There’s definitely extra effort over and above simply acquiring and launching an EMD (Exact Match Domain) site. There’s really no such thing as an EMD bonus anymore from Google. In late 2012, Google cracked down on ranking sites simply based on their domains. In fact, they began to penalize EMDs with poor quality sites according to Search Engine Land (source: https://searchengineland.com/ library/google/emd-update ).

In our experience, building out an EMD site really boils down to basic SEO – have a good quality user experience (including mobile), write good content, and focus on building backlinks. The benefit that you have from including an informative keyword in your domain is that you immediately set the user’s expectation for what they will get. If you site is done well, this will help your site’s overall authority and help in areas like bounce rates and backlinks. In our case it also helps potential partners find us.

Mike:   Have you received any unsolicited offers on the names?  Anything worth considering?

Kelly:  Yes, occasionally, but since we are an active revenue site I think buyers tend to shy away from making offers on just the names. There is an active market for domains in the energy vertical and we do watch the market for domains with our keywords. We have purchased several related keyword domains more as a defensive move than anything else.

Mike:  Do you feel it’s possible for anyone to make a living online with a good domain name?

Kelly:   Unfortunately, no. It takes a combination of several factors to make a living doing this in my opinion.

First, it isn’t really about the domain. It’s more about the product/service, content, and experience that you give to site visitors. Simply launching a site with a few keywords in the domain won’t get you very far. Think through your own digital shopping experiences and consider your recent positive experiences. This includes everything from things like product quality and customer service to the site interface itself. Do these things well.

Second, your product/service has to be marketed. If simply launching your site with a keyword or two in the domain is your marketing plan, you’ll likely be waiting a while (if any sales come through at all). By the way, marketing doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. There’s a lot of room for creativity here.

Next, focus on your competitive advantage if your site is entering a competitive market. Do your due diligence on competitors and see what you like or don’t like about their products.

Finally, there’s the personal and financial aspect of owning a site. Do you have the financial backing to not only launch a site but scale it up to profitability? Do you have the patience to write content and duke it out in the battle for keywords? Have you determined what makes you uniquely qualified to fill a specific need? All of these factors come into play when deciding if you can head down the entrepreneurial path and make a living online.
Mike:  I noticed you have only a couple of states associated with the gas and electric sites.  Why is that?   Any plans on expanding?

Kelly:  Yes, definitely. We are currently in Texas, Ohio, and Connecticut with our electricity site and Ohio and Michigan with our natural gas site. We are definitely planning on expanding to other deregulated markets (there are 14 total for electricity and 20 for gas). We will soon go through the licensing and certification process in the other deregulated markets and enter them in an orderly manner through the end of 2018.

In addition, many countries have varying degrees of energy choice for consumers. Our long term plan is to enter these markets as well.

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geo domain

InjuryAttorneyFlorida.com – Geo domaining lives on

Tina Willis graduated 2nd in her class from Florida State University College of Law.  She has worked as a big firm defense attorney and as a law professor, not to mention the many awards under her belt.  She now focuses her time as a personal injury attorney.  She is using InjuryAttorneyFlorida.com as her domain to her business site and likes to refer to herself as an Orlando car & truck accident attorney.

Mike:  What attracted you to practice law from the start?

Tina:  My grandparents raised me and we had very little money or connections.  As I became a young adult, who thankfully was able to attend college, I became more aware of the societal and economic pressures that had made life difficult for my grandparents.  So I suppose you could say that I wanted to help those who were less fortunate when they needed an advocate. That was because I knew how it felt to need help, and not be able to find anyone who really cared.  That is one big reason that I love my current practice area, which allows me to help those who could not otherwise afford to hire a lawyer, instead of helping large corporations.  Plus, I have always loved a good debate!

Mike:  You’re leveraging InjuryAttorneyFlorida.com along with tinawillislaw.com.  Are there any other domains you own?

Tina:  On the advice of a not great SEO agency, when I first started my practice, we purchased over 100 domains, and still own quite a few of those.  These days, we only maintain and regularly update my primary domain (InjuryAttorneyFlorida.com).  We made the decision to focus our efforts online because maintaining more than one website, much less many other websites, was far too challenging.  We also get virtually no traffic or leads from the other domains we own.  So basically we learned the hard way that the advice to purchase many domains was not good.

Also, as a side note, managing multiple domains is so problematic that tinawillislaw.com is not even forwarding properly (to my primary domain).  We purchased that domain name only for email and offline marketing.  But the forwarding has never worked.  Your interview actually reminded me that I need to check with my tech/website support people, to hopefully get that resolved.   But that’s a perfect example of how multiple domains can lead to many unexpected complications.

Mike: I have to ask some questions related to law.  If I were to be injured at work or at a business, what are the first steps I should take?  Is that any different if I were to get injured on someones residential property?

Tina:  Most of the cases that we handle are either auto accidents, such as car, truck, or motorcycle accidents, or premises liability, such as slip and fall, or negligent security cases.

Your question relates more to premises liability.  But many of the steps for an injured victim to take after any accident are the same.

First, they should make sure they get immediate medical treatment.  If their injuries are serious, the best scenario in terms of adding value to their injury case is to be transported by ambulance to the hospital right after their accident.

Second, or simultaneously, they should report the accident, either to the police (in an auto accident), or the business owner (in a premises liability case).   They also should take detailed photos of the accident scene, vehicles involved, property defects in a premises liability case, and any visible signs of their own injuries.

Finally, they absolutely need to call a personal injury & accident lawyer ASAP.  Injured victims have the burden of proving their cases in court.  And that burden is a heavy one.  So we need to quickly gather evidence, which could, and often does, disappears very soon after any accident.  This includes documentary evidence, physical evidence, and witnesses.

Although they have a duty to report the accident to their own insurance company (in auto accident cases), usually within a short period of time, they should call a lawyer first.  The reason is that their own insurance company wants to pay the least amount of money possible, on every claim.  If their insurance company might owe any money under an uninsured motorist (UM) policy, they WILL ask questions, sometimes very innocent-sounding questions, to get information that can significantly reduce case value.  Injured victims have no obligation to communicate with the other party’s insurance company, regardless of what they say.  Either way, injured victims need a lawyer speaking and working for them, very quickly, particularly if they sustained serious injuries.

If someone were injured on residential property, there might be different issues involved, primarily with getting the home owner’s insurance policy.  Lawyers do not have access to homeowner policies.  So we might need the client to get the homeowner’s policy, or we would have to reject case.  This happens in dog bite cases, for example.  One exception would be if the residential property were an apartment complex, and some defect with the apartment caused their injury.  Then we might be able to accept the case, and hold the landlord, management company, or owner responsible.

The bottom line with all injury and accident cases is that the facts can change the outcome.  So there really is no substitute for a consultation, during which we tell our clients what they need to do to get the most money possible in their cases.  We provide free consultations so we encourage potential clients to take advantage of those.

Mike:  How has this descriptive, geographic domain name helped your traffic and what made you decide to try this approach?

Tina:  We believe the domain name has helped our online presence because we tend to rank well for many of our targeted phrases.  But, as you know, the Google algorithm doesn’t send you a message telling you what helped your phone ring.  So we cannot be sure.  That’s just a hunch / gut-feeling.  We purchased this domain name on the advice of an SEO professional and friend.

Mike:  Have you considered other domains with TLDs such as dot law or dot legal as some other attorneys have?

Tina:  I have considered the other TLDs, primarily because I have friends who have successfully used them.  But, after just going through a conversion of my website from http to httpS, there is no way in the world that I would change domain names at this point.  Besides, my personal opinion is that dot com will always be the best.  Plus, the algorithm awards domain age.  So I wouldn’t want to convert an older URL to a brand new domain name, for the sake of possibly better keywords.  Also, many of the exact match domain names have already been purchased, so we would still have to settle for a partial match domain.

Mike:  Would you recommend a geo name for other businesses, such as “orlandodentist.com?”  Why or why not?

Tina:  As I said, I think having geography in the name has been helpful.  But I have no statistics or analytics to support that theory.  I just assume they help, based on what I have been told, and we seem to rank reasonably well.  On the other hand, since the algorithm involves hundreds of factors, there definitely could be other factors that are helping our website rank.  I am not aware of any way to test any one specific factor.  That all being said, if I were starting a new business, with a new website, then I definitely would try to include geo factors.  That creates a problem of finding an available, exact match domain name.  Partial matches aren’t as helpful.  As it turns out, actually, mine is a partial match, because an exact match was not available.  On the other hand, if I had an established domain, then I wouldn’t switch domain names just for the geo component.

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dotjobs

Find.jobs – Are there advantages to .jobs names? Several

Ettore Fantin is the  Director of Marketing at Find.jobs.The find.jobs team recognized the need to develop an industry-leading solution for job seekers. With 30% of the global workforce actively seeking a job change, they set out to develop a unique solution. To service this need they launched Find.jobs. The flagship .jobs property utilizes ElasticSearch and the Google Job Discovery API to surpass current search mechanisms. This is backed by more than 8 million open positions available to job seekers at any point in time.  The parent company of .jobs and Find.jobs, Employ Media, LLC is the licensed operator of the .jobs TLD on the internet.

Mike: Tell me what differentiates find.jobs from other job sites?

Ettore:  We have identified several opportunities to create a better job search experience for our users.  One of which is providing users a more accurate search experience. Many of the largest job sites use one to one keyword matching for their searches.  The result of this is frequent irrelevant search results, elongating the process for job seekers. Utilizing the Google Cloud Job Discovery API, we are confident in our accuracy being superior to that of other websites. This paired with the extensive .jobs network provides job seekers a targeted and precise job search experience.

Mike:  As the director of marketing, what goes into marketing a site such as find.jobs?  What’s the most challenging aspect of promoting a website?

Ettore:   The most challenging aspect is quickly articulating the message of the question above.  The difference is clear when doing a side by side comparison between job sites, but not as clear on first impression.  My job is not only to get job seekers to our website but to also get them returning to the site as their preferred platform.  We see a high number of return visitors on the site currently, that number will continue to go up as we release new and innovative features!

Mike:  Does the dot jobs tld help with search engine placement for job sites or companies posting jobs?  

Ettore:  In several cases, the .jobs TLD will help with search engine placements.  We’re seeing a lot of large companies notice the same value as we do and using a .jobs domain. Amazon and even Indeed utilize a .jobs domain for their career sites (Amazon.jobs and Indeed.jobs)   These companies hire on such a massive scale that a tweak such as using .jobs as opposed to a subdomain can make a large difference. Companies posting jobs can benefit greatly from the .jobs network. We provide job search sites focused on geography, industry, and position. As we present highly target jobs to job seekers with these sites we also present a highly targeted audience of job seekers to employers. Companies that want to get a job in front of a highly targeted segment of job seekers would be hard-pressed to find a better resource.

Mike:  With Employ Media, LLC being the parent company and the licensed operator of the .jobs TLD, does that put you in a position of competing with those that register .job names?

Ettore:  Mike, the short answer to your question is “yes” but to be clear we compete against other TLD operators particularly, .com, who has had the huge head start.  To create consumer awareness for the .jobs TLD, notably with job seekers, Our strategy as the TLD operator is to invest, own and operate .jobs website properties. These websites serve the many ways employers and job seekers use the Internet for employment purposes. Find.jobs is an Employ Media owned website property. We’ve long believed that for .jobs to be a successful TLD and gain mindshare with users that we have to encourage the competitive landscape to adopt .jobs, not just sit back and hope this happens on its own.

Our methods of domain name allocation with registrars have in fact encouraged various startups in the market to register .jobs domain names to compete. These include landing.jobs, museum.jobs, crypto.jobs, greater.jobs, sweeps.jobs, instaff.jobs, and realtime.jobs to name but a few. In 13 years of operation, .jobs has never increased its wholesale fee to registrars. This decision brings with it certainty and stability to registrants (registrar customers) to develop their .jobs domains into competitive properties. Further, there’s never been a UDRP action filed involving a .jobs domain name since inception.  We know these are important ingredients as the operator of the .jobs TLD to gain trust in the marketplace.

The online recruitment marketplace is both robust and dynamic.  We recognize .jobs to be a natural TLD extension that fits this vertical.   Companies have built very successful website properties in .jobs including hyatt.jobs, att.jobs, nissanmotor.jobs, and psu.jobs.  We are proud of these properties as they are great examples of the .jobs intended use. Annually, hundreds of millions of job seekers engage with .jobs websites from nearly every country in the world By investing into our TLD, and bringing it to market, we have built confidence that others can create competitive .jobs properties.

Mike:  What is your position on the newer TLDs that have been released.  Do you feel that is good for business? Has it impacted registration rates of .jobs in any way?

Ettore:  We’re actually a fan!  The .jobs TLD was applied for in 2003 and granted in 2005 when there were only a couple dozen TLDs.  Now with several hundred TLDs, we are proud to be early adopters and pioneers in the space. We have participated in several other TLD applications since, and are optimistic about the direction which this is moving.

Mike:  How many .jobs domains are currently registered?

Ettore:  There are nearly 50,000 .jobs domains registered.  Given the professional nature of the TLD, there is very little turnover and the TLD was identified as the 2nd safest “neighborhood” on the web by Symantec Blue Coat!

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A couple of guys I’d like to hang out with: Braden Pollock and Nat Cohen

Seriously, how cool would it be to sit down with these two guys and have a beer or dinner and talk about domain names, entrepreneurship, and their experiences. Just an hour with these two guys would be like a full advanced college course in domaining.  I would honestly be taking notes while beer dripped across the pages because, yes, I’m that guy taking notes at a bar on paper – not even on an iPad.

Well, guess what?  We don’t get an hour. You can still have a beer if you want, that’s your call.  But get the most out of the next 15 minutes of your life by watching these two hit on topics such as UDRPs, ICANN and ICA.  Thanks to NamePros for antoher great video.

[scroll-box]Braden: Nat Cohen, welcome to NamesCon.

Nat: Good to be here.

Braden: Happy to have you. You’ve come to all of them, right?

Nat: I missed the first one.

Braden: You missed the first one?

Nat: Yeah.

Braden: I don’t know if we should even do this interview now.

Nat: I’ve just been doing holiday travel and I was like, “Richard, this is a great conference idea but I’m just not coming out.

Braden: You gotta squeeze it in.

Nat: Yep.

Braden: You’ve been coming to domain conferences forever because you’ve been…

Nat: I went to the first T.R.A.F.F.I.C one 2004.

Braden: Tell us about what you do. You have a massive portfolio. You’ve been doing it a long time. Tell us about how you got started and why you got started, your experience in the domain industry, and who the heck you are.

Nat: Okay. Well, I am… Yeah. I’m from DC, grew up in the area, and I got into domains by accident when I was just trying to publish a website and learn about how to register a domain to do it. And then learned about people investing in domains and got curious and looked into what was available, and that’s what I got started on. And I have a… Yeah, have a sort of a generic portfolio since 1997.

Braden: Wow.

Nat: And…

Braden: And that’s really…that was early on, right?

Nat: It was early on but people liked Digimedia and other ones who were there, even earlier, had taken all the good stuff.

Braden: But only by a few years.

Nat: Doesn’t matter if it’s by…you know if it is one second. You miss it by one second, it’s too late.

Braden: Granted. But it’s still early on because only it was, what, mid ’94, ’95? When did it go public?

Nat: That’s when people… That’s when it… Yeah. ’95, ’94, ’95, was like Rick Schwartz and those kind of guys started saying, “This is what we’re gonna do.”

Braden: Because prior to that, you had to be on the inside to get a name.

Nat: I think, yeah. I don’t know much about it, but yeah.

Braden: So, you’re old school.

Nat: Relatively early. And yeah. So, got names through registrations, some drop catching, a lot of purchases along the way, and try to just keep increasing the value of the portfolio and hope, yeah. Hopefully, I’ve done that.

Braden: Did you do much in the Dot-bomb at about 2000, 2001 when a lot of these names were expiring that used to be companies?

Nat: I actually got distracted in trying to do development and that took my focus out for a couple of years, probably right when like Frank and those guys were catching all the good stuff that was dropping.

Braden: Yeah. Frank Schilling really did well that period.

Nat: Then, I’m also involved with the ICA on the board level and have that’s been kind of like the main area of focus for me for a lot of years.

Braden: Yeah. You spend a lot of time.

Nat: Yep.

Braden: The Internet Commerce Association.

Nat: So, I care about the policy side of things because I realized that these domains that I was investing in and buying in, that I thought I owned, my ownership in them wasn’t as secure as I thought they were because people…there was a way that you can come and take away domains from a domain owner. And I lost crew.com in a decision that, you know, I thought…

Braden: I was gonna ask if you had some bad decisions.

Nat: Yes. When I was… I had one of the very first UDRPs, I think, on like a dictionary word domain.

Braden: Uniform Dispute Resolution Protocol.

Nat: Dispute Resolution Procedure/Policy. Policy I think.

Braden: Procedure? Policy?

Nat: Yep

Braden: Something P.

Nat: Something with a P in it. Yeah. So, that was something they introduced.

Braden: And that’s how a company claiming trademark rights goes through ICANN to take a name from the registrant.

Nat: Yes. So, if they think that someone is registering a domain to target their trademark, and a lot of people have done that, and that’s a policy that they can use to get the domain transferred to them. And that policy was built for cybersquatting but it’s been expanded and expanded to a lot of investment domains, dictionary word domains. As domain investors, we’re in this tricky situation where we wanna buy domains that companies like, but the issue is that some companies have already liked that name and trademarked it. So, the question is to what extent when you buy this domain are you targeting that trademark that’s there, or are you buying it because it’s got inherent value? And that’s always been the key issue that’s come down. And a lot of the people who are deciding these things are trademark attorneys and they tend to look at it more from the perspective, if the company has a trademark and you don’t, then why are you buying this if you don’t have a trademark? The only possible reason you’d be buying it is to try and target my client who’s got the trademark.

Braden: Which is certainly not the case if it’s a generic word.

Nat: I mean, some people could buy a generic word to target an existing trademark but, you know, domain investors are buying them because the word has inherent value and it could be of interest to anybody in any company.

Braden: Right. Any kind of brand.

Nat: Yeah. So, it’s the… This new policy was written in a broad enough way that a lot of investment domains got caught in that net. And it’s implemented in a way that’s kind of trademark…from a trademark focus. And so you get the wrong guy on the panel and he’ll take a look at it and he’ll just won’t…he won’t give too much credence to the view that this domain has inherent value. He’ll think it’s only because of the trademark value.

Braden: The panelists are the decision makers through the UDRP process.

Nat: Right. They are… They get…

Braden: So, they represent ICANN and get to make the decision, yeah?

Nat: Well, they don’t represent ICANN.

Braden: Signed by ICANN? How would you…?

Nat: It’s a multi-step process and each step there’s less and less accountability. So, ICANN credits these providers of UDRP who get to administrator the UDRP under no contract at all, and then the UDRP providers get to pick who, pretty much under whatever standards they want, to be UDRP panelists. Some of them have no IP background, apparently. And then they’re set up.

Braden: How’s that possible?

Nat: Because their attorneys or lawyers… We don’t know what their criteria are. That’s one of the things. It’s a black box as to how they pick who they’re gonna use as a panelist and they may just not have… Some of their decisions make it pretty clear they don’t have a good understanding of trademark law. So, these are people who are then deciding whether or not you as a domain owner gets to keep your domain name.

Braden: And typically, who are these people? So these panelists, you say, a lot of times are lawyers or IP lawyers?

Nat: Yeah. I hope almost always they have a legal background. Some of them are retired. Some of them are academics. Actually, maybe not all of them are lawyers but a good chunk of them are active trademark attorneys who represent brand owners as clients in their day job and that’s their perspective.

Braden: So the decision makers are on the trademark side of the world.

Nat: Many of them are.

Braden: So, who’s representing the domain investors? So, who’s understanding that perspective? Is there anybody in the mix?

Nat: At the panelist level, very few, I think, have a particular understanding of the domain investment industry. And so, yeah, your… If you just had to do a random draw, the odds are you won’t get somebody. And that’s why most, you know, most people recommend…there’s an option of a three-member panel or a one-member panel. And even though a three-member panel is significantly more expensive, they recommend trying to get three…that it’s better to get three panelists because you gonna have that diversity of perspective and you may just, from the random draw, you may get someone who doesn’t, frankly, doesn’t really have much of a clue or just has a very you know, minority perspective on what’s okay and what’s not okay.

Braden: As a domain investor, my name ends up on one of these panels because a trademark owner is trying to take it from me, even though I just have a generic word and they think they have…I’m infringing on their mark, which I’m not, and then the decision makers are trademark lawyers so I’m not gonna be represented. So, how do we fix that problem?

Nat: That’s a very good question and we don’t have an answer to that. There is a…

Braden: Nat, I come to you for answers.

Nat: Well, I can recommend a good restaurant.

Braden: Okay.

Nat: So, there’s an ICANN process. ICANN is the overall group charged with implementing this whole domain name system. And so they’re the ones who…through which this UDRP, the domain transfer policy was, you know, released or they’re the ones who created it through their process. And so they’re reviewing it for the very first time. And the ICA, of which we’re both members, is actively involved in that process. We haven’t gotten to the UDRP portion of it yet, and we’re hoping that that process will result in a more balanced…there’s trademark interest and trademark owners have rights but domain owners have rights too, and we’d like to see a little better balance there, a little better protections for trademark owners who aren’t infringing. There’s too much at risk now.

Braden: I appreciate the in-depth perspective. I’m gonna give you an opportunity to plug ICA, and then we’re gonna talk about NamesCon.

Nat: Okay.

Braden: So, how does someone support ICA?

Nat: They support by joining. That’s the usual way. They go to ICA.domains, which is our website, and they can learn a lot about it and there’s a chance to join. And they can read various testimonials as to why they should join there. And I can give a whole pitch about why people should join but I’ll leave that to you.

Braden: Well, we’re gonna move on to NamesCon. So, you’ve been in the space a long, long time, 20 plus years?

Nat: My 20th year.

Braden: Wow. Happy anniversary.

Nat: Thank you.

Braden: When somebody says, “What do you do?” What do you say? How do you explain when you say, “I’m a domain investor,” and they say, “What?”

Nat: I’ve tried many different variations and I haven’t settled on anything good yet, but I try and explain, you know, what it means to invest in a domain name. I think the approach I’m taking now is to say that every company that’s on the internet needs a name and there’s a limited pool of good quality names out there and that limited pool is what we call investment quality domains. And that the key thing when somebody has a name is that it can be memorable and you can remember what that name is. And the great thing about existing words is that some people are already familiar with them.

If you have some random combination of letters or some made-up word, no one’s ever heard of that, it’s hard for them to remember it. So there’s a lot of value to a company that that when you say their name, people are gonna remember it. That that name has some kind of meaning, then they get the benefit of that meaning being associated with their brand. So, if you have a nice memorable word that has some positive connotation, that’s a beautiful brand and companies who have big visions for their brand and wanna promote it and advertise it and spend a lot of money getting people to remember it, it’s worth a lot of money over their lifetime to get a brand that has those qualities to it.

Braden: And hopefully, those big companies come to me.

Nat: Me.

Braden: Oh.

Nat: Sorry.

Braden: Us.

Nat: Us. Yes

Braden: So, let’s say somebody wants… Somebody says, “That’s interesting. I wanna do that too.” What do they do? Where do they go? How do they get started?

Nat: Well, they’re lucky because there’s a tremendous amount of…tremendous number of people in the domain industry who are providing a tremendous amount of useful information for free and are just being very generous with their knowledge. So, there’s sites like domainsherpa.com, blogs like domaininvesting.com, domainnamewire.com, dnjournal.com. I’m leaving out the domainshane.com.

Braden: Or they can go to domaining.com which is an aggregator of all the…

Nat: Right. That’s a good…domaining.com. Yeah. You can find all sorts of…many, many of the blogs there. And once you dive in, there’s no end of excellent content and advice that you’ll get. So, I think, once you get started, you’ll get plenty of information there. And of course, come to NamesCon. I’ve said the right thing.

Braden: Yeah. That’s where we’re gonna go.

Nat: All right. Because this is where everybody is and the people are very generous with their information and there’s tons of sessions, especially geared towards newcomers to the industry that can get them, get you guys up and running and going after the better quality names, steering clear of bad investments.

Braden: So NamesCon, we’ve got about 1,300 attendees. It’s pretty good. It’s the most we’ve ever had in any domain conference ever.

Nat: Yeah.

Braden: Right? Including internationally. I don’t think there’s ever been a bigger name…

Nat: I believe you.

Braden: Yeah. Because I go to those.

Nat: Yes.

Nat: You’re out there.

Braden: 400 people maybe was the biggest one in Hong Kong. But this is huge. Everyone comes to this conference. It’s a great place to come meet people, network, and all the old school guys like you are here and then people can grab us and talk to us and ask questions. And we’re up on stage and we’re doing panels and there’s a lot of information to be learned here.

Nat: Yeah. There’s a lot of valuable information and there’s a number of, you know, there’s some people I’ve talked to over the year and they’re interested in domains. And I say…and a couple of them have come to NamesCon just because it’s like, “This is where I need to be,” and they’re not really domain investors but they have a good quality domain or they wanna learn more and this is the place to come.

Braden: Yeah. And they can also… We mentioned blogs. We mentioned NamesCon, and there’s also forums like NamePros.

Nat: What’s NamePros?

Braden: You haven’t heard it?

Nat: No.

Braden: Maybe…

Nat: Oh, NamePros. Yes, NamePros. That’s a great, great place to go. No, NamePros has done a wonderful job of creating a ton of excellent content, video interviews.

Braden: Right.

Nat: Yes. And my hats are off.

Braden: And you can ask questions to people in the forum and get answers and…

Nat: Yeah. My hats are off to the NamePros for stepping up and really creating a ton of valuable information for us.

Braden: Great content. Yeah. Okay. Nat, thank you for joining us. I appreciate your time. It’s great information. Thank you.[/scroll-box]

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domain branding

Translations.com – Invest in the domain, not the formal branding effort

Philip Shawe is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of TransPerfect, a global family of companies and the world’s largest privately held provider of language and business services. Phil oversees the day-to-day operations of the company.

Under Phil’s leadership, TransPerfect has received numerous awards and distinctions. The company is a seven-time honoree of the Inc. 5000 Award, a six-time honoree of the Deloitte Technology Fast 500, and has earned multiple Stevie Awards for Sales and Customer Service. Crain’s New York Business has ranked TransPerfect as one of the largest privately held companies nine years in a row. TransPerfect was also named to fastest-growing lists six times by Entrepreneur.

Mike:  Tell me how you came to acquire Translations.com.  Can you talk about the process you went through to acquire the name? 

Phil: When we decided to establish the technology division in the late 90s, Translations.com seemed an obvious choice. The head of our corporate development efforts, Mike Sank, looked into acquiring the domain and we determined that the cost was about the same as we’d spend on a professional branding exercise so we opted to pay the expense and get on with developing the business.

Mike:  What exactly do you do at Translations.com?  Clearly some form of translations but I know it is really much more than that. 

Phil: Translations.com was initially focused on providing language services for companies that were dealing with digital content, while the predecessor company, TransPerfect, represented more of the brick-and-mortar side of the business, with offerings such as document translation, interpretation, and multilingual desktop publishing. The increase in demand for software localization and web localization, and the need to cater toward the unique requirements of those projects drove the need to create a specialized team. Through some very strategic mergers and the development of our own technology, the Translations.com division now offers flagship technology products that help customer manage their translation workflow in digital environments. Translations.com also produces those same software products for our internal use company-wide, which help the whole of TransPerfect operate more efficiently, and we are able to pass those best-practices and saving on our clients, with the net result of providing higher value solutions than our competition.

domain branding

Mike:  Focusing specifically on you, you seem to have done quite well in business.  Do you feel that is due to skills that you have learned, personality traits that you naturally have, a combination, or something else?

Phil: Ultimately, I attribute much of my success to the team of people I’ve managed to gather around me. While I do think I’ve got some talent in a few important areas of business, what’s made me the most successful is an ability to identify, motivate and retain others, who possess the true talent that drives our business. TransPerfect and Translations.com have grown to have over 4,000 employees working in over 30 countries, out of over 100 offices worldwide — revenues of more than $615MM in 2017 — and we just completed our 100th straight quarter of profitable growth. None of that would be possible without the hard work and dedication of the team we’ve assembled. I have learned a ton about management in those 25 years, but I continue to learn with each passing day, and I’m looking forward to next 25 years which has just begun.

Mike:  Are you willing to share what you paid for the name? 

Phil: I believe we paid in the neighborhood of $75,000 at the time. As I mentioned before, that was comparable to what we’d have paid for a separate branding exercise run by a marketing firm — so we thought, let’s get a recognizable and memorable domain name — along with the name of our new tech-focused company.  It was very hip at the time to be a “dot com.” — and it may be so retro now that we’ve survived all this time, that it may become hip again.

Mike:  How much traffic does the name pull in on a monthly basis? 

Phil:  While those numbers are informative, they don’t matter as much to us as they might to some other brands as our website is not an e-commerce platform. We’ve got highly professional sales and client service teams that really drive our revenues. Still, even after all these years, we do get new leads directly from the site and some of those have grown into major client relationships.

Mike:  How important would you say a good domain name is to an online business’ success? 

Phil:  I definitely think that a good domain name is helpful in terms of building a brand and having easy name recognition. For example, if your domain name is really long or hard to remember, every time a salesperson tells someone how to get in touch with them via email, there’s an opportunity for confusion and missed messages. But at the end of the day, what’s most important is the quality of the product or service your offering and the commitment your team makes to its customers. So while I’d advocate for being thoughtful about a domain and making sure it’s memorable, easy to spell, and culturally appropriate, I wouldn’t obsess over it at the expense of properly delivering services or technology solutions to your clients.

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Women in Domaining: Cyntia King

This week I am pleased to feature Cyntia King.  She has been described as a “Powerhouse intellectual property broker.” She’s spent 10+ years buying/selling IP (domains, TMs, patents, stock symbols, business DBAs, phone #s, and more) with prices ranging from 4-7 figures. Ms. King launched her own IP consulting company, Modern IP, in 2017.

Mike:  What you do doesn’t seem like something one can learn at school.  How did you perfect your craft?  Did you have mentors along the way that have helped you develop?

Cyntia:  I enjoy a challenge and have been lucky enough to be in the right place/time for some unique opportunities.

My career in IP started when a neighbor complained that he was too busy.  His job sounded interesting, so I pressed for an interview, which I got a month later.  My fascination with the industry was immediate.  And that neighbor – Dane Hill – turned out to be an amazing mentor.  He answered endless questions & offered a level of support most people never get.

The fact is that I love the work.  Mark Cuban said, “Sweat equity is the most valuable equity there is.  Know your business and industry better than anyone else in the world.  Love what you do or don’t do it.”  I’ve actively looked for opportunities to expand my knowledge and skills.  I asked for the toughest and most unusual cases; networked with the most knowledgeable professionals, and have made an effort to be honest and equitable in my dealings with clients and colleagues.  Like the man said, love it or don’t do it.

Mike:  Being a woman in business can sometimes present challenges.  Have you found that to be true in your career?  If so, please expand on that. 

Cyntia:  I got my gun safety certificate at 13, tried out for the wrestling team as a freshman, was a featured dancer in a college production, managed a heavy metal band, ran the front office of a modeling school/agency & have succeeded in a field dominated by men.  Obviously, I’ve never been overly concerned about gender roles and I have to admit that I rarely register gender bias.  While I’ve seen a decidedly male bent in the industry (like domain conference finales at the Playboy Mansion), I haven’t encountered anything I couldn’t overcome.  In the face of bad behavior, I acknowledge it, address with a little humor, and get back to work.  I do love the work.

Mike:  What advantages and disadvantages have you found having a female-owned business? 

Cyntia:  The biggest challenge I have as a business owner is work-life balance.  I know this is true for most executives, but I do believe there’s still an expectation that women fill the role of primary household caretaker.  It’s tough to balance client obligations and family responsibilities.  There are many days that I think I need a wife of my own.  My best advice to women in business is learn to say “no”.  You’re better off to acknowledge that you can’t be all things to all people, so be honest about what you can do.

Mike: Would you consider yourself a role model to other young women in the industry?

Cyntia: I’d like to think of myself as more of an inspiration than a role model.  I’m the person who prefers to take the path less traveled.  That track is both uniquely beautiful and full of potential difficulties.  Every person who steps off the beaten path has to navigate the course in their own way and I absolutely support that kind of individuality.

Mike:  Obviously, intellectual property is important, but many small businesses don’t realize they need to trademark, patent, or otherwise protect and secure their IP.  What advice do you have for small businesses?

Cyntia:  According to Ocean Tomo (a capital advisory firm), the average intangible asset value of S&P 500 companies is 84%.  That’s huge.

Most new businesses, though, start by concentrating on their product/service.  It’s only after they’ve achieved some success that they think about protecting their intangibles.  By this time they could well be a victim of their own success.  The marketplace is full of stories like: (1) the company that sees market traction only to be served with a C&D letter demanding they change their name because someone else already has the trademark; (2) the business that finally gets venture capital funding only to find that the domain name they need is now an order of magnitude more costly because the registrant read about the investment; or (3) the scammer who monitors the Trademark office for new filings, then goes out and registers the corresponding domains.

Bottom Line:  It’s important to have an intellectual property plan and that often means consulting an IP professional.

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Video Interview: Kevin Fink with Todd Han of Dynadot

This next NamePros video features Todd Han of Dynadot talking about the GTLDS and his first experience at NamesCon.  This video is from a couple years back.  Let’s see how the discussion played out.  Please note that the transcript is available below.  Please note the full transcript is availbale below the video.

[scroll-box]Kevin: We’re here at NamesCon 2016. I’m joined by Todd Han of Dynadot. Todd, it’s great to meet you.

Todd: Nice to meet you as well, Kevin.

Kevin: This is your first NamesCon. Tell me about the experience so far and how you’ve enjoyed it.

Todd: Well, actually I love it. I like how the conference center is set up. There’s a lot of traffic to our booth, seeing a lot of new faces. So actually, I think it’s a great event, yeah.

Kevin: So you founded Dynadot 2002?

Todd: Right.

Kevin: That’s pushing its 15th year now. Tell us about the C change of the domain industry and what’s happened over even just the last few years and where you guys are at now.

Todd: Well, when we started the company 2002, we had three TLDs: .COM, .NET, .ORG. Over the next five years, we added maybe five more: .BIZ, .INFO, .MOBI, .ASIA, .TEL. And then in 2014, we added 300 more. It was a C change, yeah.

Kevin: And how has the influx of Chinese investors in the last year or so changed Dynadot in terms of not only how you’ve had to adjust to interact with customers, but just also on a business level?

Todd: That’s a great point. We actually have been in China for the last three years. We have an office there. We have a Dev team, and we have customer service there. And that wasn’t because we knew this was gonna happen, we just knew that China was a big market, you know. But, like you said, this year, China just blew up. I ran the numbers just last week and our revenue in RMB in 2015 was 20x what it was in 2014. So that’s a 2,000% increase.

Kevin: Incredible, man. Congratulations.

Todd: They’re just buying everything.

Kevin: Yeah. That’s an incredible growth for you guys. So what are some… I don’t know if you can speak of maybe some…maybe not top-secret things but some changes on your end or some product enhancements or innovations that you hope to enact on the registrar level or…I know you guys have other things like drop catching and… What are some things that we can look forward to as customers?

Todd: Well, probably the biggest thing is just the selection of TLDs we have now. That was a ton of work for us to add, you know, 300 TLDs into our system. So, we sell pretty much everything. Our prices are good and, you know, they all come with our control panel, which is, you know, people say it’s one of the best in the industry. You can also you know, taste the new GTLDs if you want, it works with our Grace Deletion System. We have expired auctions on them.

So, you know, it’s been a year now, so some of them are starting to drop. So you can check out new GTLDs at our auctions. Other stuff, we also do a lot of business on the retail side. We’re trying to sell domains to end users as well, that’s actually half our business. The other half is selling to domain investors. And so on that side , we have a site builder where you can, you know, you just drag and drop, putting images onto the website, write text, and it’s online, just like that.

You don’t need to know any HTML. So we have that product. Actually, domainers use that as well, just to throw up something, you know, to do testing or just to throw up like a for sale page or whatever. And that product is actually free for the first five pages. So that took us a couple years to build out. And as far as anything beyond that, it’s probably just incremental improvement for this year. We’re gonna add more GTLDs. We’re gonna move back to starting to add CCTLDs back in our system.

Kevin: Speaking of the new extensions, the two-part question, I’m curious the top-performing newer extensions on Dynadot. I’m also curious if you have any favorites of your own?

Todd: You know, you can look at it in two ways in terms of volume, registrations or in terms of revenue. In terms of volume, I think we sell the most .CLUB and .XYZ. In terms of revenue, you know, .XYZs, you know, pretty much have been discounted the whole time. So, you know, even though we sell a lot of it, we don’t make as much. In terms of revenue, we had surprising results from some of the smaller ones like .ONE, and that kind of ties in with your previous question like this Chinese domainer has kind of jumped all over that one for some reason.

Kevin: I’ve noticed it.

Todd: Yeah. Right.

Kevin: It’s really interesting. Yeah.

Todd: Yeah. So I think we’re one of the top…I think we’re number two registrar in the world for .ONE due to our Chinese customer base. My personal favorite, I really like .NINJA. It’s just fun, quirky. You know, I think a lot of domains are very serious like .COM, .NET, .ORG, you know, but .NINJAS is like… Well, you can just do whatever with it, you know. It’s more fun, you know. I think our industry is very serious but it’s good to have some fun once in a while.

Kevin: It’s getting maybe a little a bit of a sense of humor of .LOL and other things.

Todd: Exactly. Or .WTO [SP]. Yeah.

Kevin: What are some words of advice that you might give a new domain, someone new to the space?

Todd: Talk to the old domainers, they have seen everything already. There is a lot of skepticism by the old-timers. And so if I were a domainer, I would talk to them. I mean, they’ve seen everything. They’ve seen the tasting come in and leave. They’ve seen Google clamp down on PPC. They’ve seen multiple TLDs launch and fail. So, all the knowledge is already there, you just have to ask the right people, yeah.

Kevin: This is the closing day of the conference. Is there any highlights that you’ve experienced so far, whether the keynotes talks, just meeting people in general, and walking around?

Todd: So for me, my favorite part is just seeing the friends I’ve made over the years and also meeting new people. So that’s my personal highlight. In terms of the business, I think no question, the biggest talking point was the Chinese economy. What I heard was, you know, up till 2010 or 2012, everyone was putting their money into real estate in China.

And then, you know, around 2012, the government was kind of trying to suppress the price. They raised interest rates. They limited how many properties you could buy. So, people started investing in the stock market. And the market in China, I think it tripled in the last three years or something ridiculous like that, until this summer. And then it had a mini-crash.

And then last week it crashed again. So people can’t invest in real estate, they can’t invest in stocks. So where’s that money gonna go? It turns out a lot of it went into domain names. And I think that’s what we’re seeing and other asset classes. I’ve heard fine art. I’ve heard wine. I’ve heard precious metals. So that was a real highlight just talking to CNNIC, talking to Chinese domainers, just seeing what they had to say about that.

Kevin: That’s interesting. Yeah. We’ve spoken to a few people who’ve heard various insights as to whether this either current or hopefully not future turbulence in the markets is going to affect domains, whether more people are gonna buy into it or people are gonna kind of withdraw from it from the market.

Todd: Yeah. What I heard was as long as the Chinese economy is not doing well, domains will do well. Once the Chinese economy picks up again, they’re gonna start investing in real estate and stocks again.

Kevin: Okay. That’s interesting. We’ll see what happens. [crosstalk 00:07:54]

Todd: That’s what I heard about it but I’m not an economist.

Kevin: Neither am I. Neither am I. So I know that Dynadot has a presence on NamePros. We’re here with NamePros in partnership with them.

Todd: We have CSRs on NamePros for sure. You know, a lot of people are actually more comfortable asking questions amongst their friends on the forums than asking us directly, and we’re actually fine with that. You know, we have nothing to hide. If you have a problem and it’s our fault, you know, we’ll fix it.

We’re not gonna try to cover it up or something. So we’re perfectly happy with people discussing things on NamePros. NamePros has been partners of ours for a long time now. I think even when we just started like, you know, people were talking about us on the forums on NamePros. And you know, from a business perspective, I mean, we work with NamePros. We do ads on NamePros, occasionally when we have specials of promos. So we’re really happy with our relationship with NamePros. And I think, you know, they’re part of the ecosystem, they’re a valuable part of the ecosystem. And so we’re just… We’re very grateful that people like us on NamePros. Yeah.

Kevin: Well, it was good to meet you. It was good speaking with you. And I look forward to seeing you next year.

Todd: Thank you so much, Kevin. I really appreciate your time. [/scroll-box]

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Women in Domaining: Christa Taylor – dotTBA

In her own words, Christa describes herself as follow. “I love the business building roller coaster. The nervousness and excitement as you climb towards the first peak wondering if everything will stay on track, the adrenaline of the first stomach-churning descent, enjoying the jolts as the coaster twists and turns. Then climbing out of the seat and charging to the line-up to do it all over again.”

Mike: Christa, it sounds like you’re an entrepreneurial thrill seeker. When did you first discover this within yourself?

Christa:  I’m not sure if I’d describe myself as a thrill seeker but I certainly enjoy the creativity of new ideas and endeavors. After working in a number of start-ups, I quickly learned the that there are two types of start-up personalities, those who get a rush from having to pivot often and quickly and those who are not comfortable and running for the exit sign.

Mike: Tell me about DotTBA. What is the market like for your services?

Christa:  Since 2012, I’ve been focused on new gTLD applications, creating premium domain name lists and pricing along with launching new gTLDs. While the pool of new TLDs has been decreasing, I have used the opportunity to improve my analytical skills and am currently preparing to launch of a couple more TLDs for the spring and fall of 2018.

Christa Taylor - women in domaining

Mike: You have an impressive business background. You have been a consultant to a multitude of start-up ventures from oil exploration to collaboration software solution companies, managed million-dollar online e-commerce sites, protection of highly valued domain names and you were the President and CFO of Poker.com Inc. You have experience in the domain, software industry from small to large corporations and have provided strategic planning and vision to numerous Internet start-up ventures. All that said, do you feel you have faced any roadblocks being a woman in business and how did you work through those?

Christa:  In my opinion, everyone faces roadblocks, it’s just a matter of personal philosophy on how one responds. Some obstacles are worth overcoming while others are not worth the energy. If it’s worth the effort then being strategic on how best to jump, climb or work around the issue is key. The rest is just execution or an adjustment to the plan as required.

Mike: Are there obstacles to growth for women in domaining that are different from other businesses?

Christa:  Based on my experience, every industry is different. I think the domaining world has less obstacles primarily due to the wide diversity of backgrounds, interests and professions. Comparing it to the gaming/poker industry, the obstacles were a lot more challenging and I was pretty naïve so the learning curve was rapid and steep. Luckily, I found a group of trusted colleagues which was really beneficial and that I try to replicate in every industry I work in. I was pleasantly surprised and initially, even a little confused, by how open and helpful people were in the TLD and domaining industry. It was such a refreshing perspective to find an industry that believed it was to everyone’s best interest to work together in achieving results rather than competing against one another. I still believe there is a lot more we, as an industry, should be doing to further advance its growth, create additional synergies and capitalize on the most promising opportunities.

Mike: With all you do, including recently achieving a Master of Science in Predictive Analytics (MSPA), how do you maintain a work/life balance. Or do you?

Christa:  LOL Life? Effective time management, experience to acknowledge the limits of time and workload and when sacrifices begin to leaving lasting impacts on life. Having friends in the industry who know you’ve been sitting in an office chair for far too long and initiate an unannounced and insane running challenge always helps. ????

Mike: You have supported several TLDs in their strategic planning and operations. Do you have any particular TLDs that or stories that you are particularly fond of?

Christa:  I think the funniest story was during the application process, working around the clock with the deadline two-days away and receiving a late-night call asking if I could do one more application. I initially declined but was persuaded to take it on. I literally received a copy of the financial statements in a different language, in a currency I didn’t recognize and took a large figure, punched in an exchange rate which resulted in another large number. Figuring I did a key error, repeated it only to get the same very long number and I literally had to talk my way through the place value of the numbers (ones, tens, hundreds…) to determine the amounts. A week later, I was at a restaurant where a sporting event was on and recognized the script on the team’s jerseys which was one of the company’s subsidiaries.

Mike: I have a 16-year-old daughter who will soon be off to college and then starting a career. Woman to woman, what advice can you give her?

Christa:  Determine what attributes are integral to who you are as a person and don’t let anyone take them away. They will inevitably provide perspective on when action is required or when that energy can be used for something more beneficial.

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Morgan Linton of Bold Metrics

As promised, here is one of the videos from the NamePros library featuring Kevin Fink interviewing Morgan Linton.  Morgan was probably the second blogger I began to follow when I started dabbling in domain investing.  I really used to love the live video segment he did back in the day.  He would casually drink a glass of wine and tell people his advice on their domain names.  I missed an opportunity to join him once when he invited me to connect on the show but I had a broken mic.  Timing sucked.

In this video, you’ll hear Morgan talk about his background and his passions.  Being a domainer doesn’t mean you only focus on domains as you’ll learn in this one.  Watch the video and/or read the transcript.  Post your thoughts in the comments once you’re done.  Enjoy!

[scroll-box]Kevin: Morgan Linton joins me at NamesCon. It’s so great to see you again, Morgan. Thanks for being here with us.

Morgan: Thanks, a lot. Yeah, Kevin. Thanks for having me.

Kevin: Yeah. How is this year compared to all the other years and what’s excited you the most so far?

Morgan: Yeah, well, it’s good to see it grow. I’ve been here since it first started and definitely more people, more energy and, of course, the new GTLDs are shaking things up and becoming a bigger and bigger part of the conversation.

Kevin: So you know I have a bit of a history.

Morgan: Yeah, family history.

Kevin: That’s right. We do, we do, yeah. But we met quite a number of years ago, and you were at SONOS.

Morgan: Yes.

Kevin: And your evolution in this industry and beyond is really fascinating. I wanted to kind of briefly touch upon that. Let me know if I leave anything out.

Morgan: Sure.

Kevin: But you were at SONOS, and you started domaining, and you started a blog. And you started building up a portfolio and a supplemental income from there. And then you left SONOS, you started domaining full-time.

Morgan: Nope. I never started domaining full time. No, I’ve never aspired to be at full-time domaining. So I left SONOS and went right into starting fashion.

Kevin: That’s right, okay. So in between there though, your income started to, you know, your income in domaining started to increase exponentially.

Morgan: My internet domaining got much bigger than I had expected. So, yeah, I was making significantly more buying and selling domain names and monetizing than I was at my day job, so to speak.

Kevin: And you were a liaison to the startup community at one point as well. You’ve been in Los Angeles, and you started meeting startups, and you were helping them acquire domains.

Morgan: Yeah.

Kevin: And I want to get into that a little bit later, but then you started Fashion Metric, now Bold Metrics.

Morgan: Yeah.

Kevin: And I want to hear about this evolution into how you basically went from someone who was helping startups acquire domains to founding and running a startup.

Morgan: Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, I think the inspiration really started when I was at SONOS. Because when I started at SONOS, there were maybe 40 people, somewhere in the 35 to 40 range and it was still like, you know, some people think like when you’re at that point, well, you must have figured stuff out. But no still a startup, still in search of product market fit, we didn’t have the product in the market. And I got to see that go from, you know, less than 50 people to over a 1,000 people during my time there and going from about 10 million funding to I think 360 million in funding.

And so seeing that growth and watching a startup scale, that for me was an incredible experience to see. But I realized I was only seeing a sliver of it because I was working and running sales organizations in Asia, Australia, Latin America, Canada. So I knew there’s like one niche of the business, but I realized like, “Wow, it’s so neat for the founders because they’re able to watch this grow and they’re able to see the entire business and how everything interacts together.” And that’s really where I got the inspiration.

I realized like, “Well I don’t know if I really want to work in a specific role in the company.” I alluded to like start a company and see what it’s like to build that team. And that was like kind of what first inspired me to do that. And then yeah, you know, being in LA at a time when the startup scene was starting to really grow and seeing a lot of that happen. And then being involved with domain names, I got to help some pretty well-known startups with the [00:03:14] names, Jay.

Kevin: That’s right. And then you and your wife, Dana, hello to her, by the way, started Fashion Metric.

Morgan: Yes.

Kevin: Can you describe sort of evolution into how that came to be and how that sort of sprouted?

Morgan: Yeah. So Dana was doing a Ph.D. at UCLA at the time. I was still at SONOS, but my SONOS stock had done pretty well, and there was a point where I could probably go on to do do something else. And kind of as we were talking about earlier, domains had also done kind of better than I expected. It kind of started as this kind of like thing on the side that I would see what happen and then it ended up making far more than I was making there, so I knew it was time to make a move.

But I had never, and this is a kind of something I always like to point out because I think there’s some people that like love domain investing and they’re like, “I’d love to do this day and night.” I’ve never really had that passion. I don’t think I have very much fun domaining day and night. I’ve never really wanted to be a full-time domainer. And so, for, me, it was like, “Well, I’d love to run a startup now.” And Dana was at a point where she was, you know, in her Ph.D. doing really interesting stuff but knew that she also wanted to do something more entrepreneurial.

And so, we actually just started going to like startup competitions. And so, I went to Lean Startup Machine which is you don’t actually build in there, you essentially like validate business models, and that’s essentially where the idea behind Fashion Metric came up. Dana had this idea for an app where if you were searching in a store for clothes and you were on your own, maybe you could take a picture of yourself and then get feedback from like a stylist that would say, “Hey, actually try this short or these pants.”

And the way that the Lean Startup methodology works is, you know, before you go out and build something, you validate like, “Would people actually use this.” And so, we went to all these clothing stores, talked to solo shoppers, people shopping on their own and said, “Hey, we’re building this app, here’s what it does, would you use it?” 90% of them said, “No, I wouldn’t use that. I don’t have an interest in taking pictures of myself and sending to a stylist.”

Kevin: So that was like fashion advice. That was that first thing, okay.

Morgan: Yeah. And so what you’re supposed to do then is, you know, understand okay, well, maybe you heap it on the problem. So we didn’t want to pivot on the use, the user is still someone shopping for clothes but we then asked them, “Okay, well, what’s the biggest problem that you have when you’re shopping for clothes?” And literally, 90% of the answers were, “It’s really hard to find stuff that fits. And boy, I wish I could shop online but everything fits differently.” And all these problems came out all around fit. And we realized well, there’s a big juicy problem that’s not really being solved in a great way online. And so went to some other startup competitions and ended up getting discovered by Mark Cuban, who pushed money into the company.

Kevin: That’s awesome.

Morgan: And, yeah, that was kind of all how it all started.

Kevin: Congratulations there.

Morgan: I didn’t quite know it was going to go all that way, but it’s…

Kevin: Backing up just a little bit before Fashion Metric, I remember throughout the years. I know that you’ve started merging into more of the startup world, you met quite a number of people, again, in Los Angeles and through some of the meetups and the community events and whatnot, startup events. Can you describe your experience as a liaison, I know at times you’ve been a broker, you’ve helped someone or startups acquire. Can you talk about the experience of working with these startups? Some of the pain points they’ve had. I know some of them have no budgets. What are some of the things, the roadblocks that you had to overcome as someone helping them acquire?

Morgan: Yeah, yeah. Well, I think there’s, you know, first off, most startup founders don’t know anything about domain names. And I think that the same is true most domain investors don’t know anything about startups and both kind of think they know something about each other. And the startups thinks that the domain investors are cyber squatters and domain investors think all the startup founders or low ballers and there’s actually a happy medium probably.

But, you know, I think for startup founders, the confusion is around, “What happens when the domain name that I want to buy is taken?” And so there’s this huge disconnect where a founder will come up with an idea for a name and then go, “I want to call my company this,” and they’ll go out and they’ll see this .com maybe it’s already taken by another company. Maybe it’s a parked page, you know, all this idea in their head of like, “Well, I should be able to get that because I came up with it and I’m going to use it.”

And they don’t know actually how to go through the process of like asking somebody via email, “Hey, what are you using this name for? Could I acquire it?” And that process is very mercurial and the domain investor community, there’s some folks that are great at responding working with startups and others that aren’t and are a little bit more abrasive.

Kevin: Right. It’s very delicate.

Morgan: And so, it’s very delicate.

Kevin: More so, almost on, well, especially the investor community. But I feel like those of you mentioned it already is a good point, just those two sides are kind of disparate ends of the spectrum.

Morgan: Yeah. You’re dealing with, you know, emotions on both sides. You have founders that are really passionate about the companies they’re building, and they’ve put a lot into coming up with this name that they feel really speaks to their company. And you have a domain owner or a domain investor that has done the same but in a different way where they have a portfolio of names and they’ve worked really hard and done the legwork and actually researching and finding the names and bidding on them and trying to get a good price.

And so, you know, it really takes both sides understanding. So I initially was working with smaller startups and names that were say under like $25,000. And for me, really what I found and the deals that I enjoyed the most were really when it was founders that were a little bit more funded and a little better understanding of like what domain names are ell for. A lot of what I did was like education about the market because most people don’t know what domain sell for. Like they don’t know that domains don’t just sell for a registration price.

They don’t know that like last week, a particular name sold for a $1 million and another name sold for [inaudible 00:08:46]. It’s like to them, that probably never happens. And so, I really focus on founders that had budgets in the six or seven figure range that really kind of had a little bit more of an understanding of, hey, and usually the conversation started, “Hey, I really want to get this name, I know it’s not going to be cheap but I’ve got a budget of, you know, $350,000 should we be able to make it work.” And that’s where you kind of have a meeting the middle for really good names.

Kevin: Sure.

Morgan: Not to say that startups obviously don’t need to buy. Bold Metrics, we bought for $3,500. We don’t have a huge budget for a name sure. And so, there’s a lot of names that are available, but I don’t think startups necessarily need brokers to help them with names in that size category because a lot they can do themselves. But it takes some education to understand how they actually do that.

Kevin: I was just going to say that. That component is sort of the missing link. I feel like, as you were talking, I’m thinking like, “There’s not really anybody out there bridging that gap.” But you certainly did and had some successes. How did you work with someone who, for instance, had a $3,500 budget but the seller or the owner was 135,000. How were able to sort of bridge that gap? Were you ever able to successfully get a startup to either take out a loan or get some more funding or capital backed, you know, for that? Or, I know sometimes there’s rev share probably share of equity.

Morgan: The Rev share profits share stuff is tough that people don’t really want to do it.

Kevin: It is.

Morgan: Equity stuff sometimes but not often times that’s also a little bit too complex. Really, a lot of times like if the budget was too low, I would usually say like, “Hey, rather than us trying to go back and forth with a domain owner, you know, why don’t we just look at names that are in your price category?” And that’s why I’ve always been a huge proponent of two-word dotcoms. That’s why we’re branded on two word dotcom.

I think those represent really great opportunities for startup founders in a sub 10,000 even sub $5,000 range. And so, what I usually say is, you know, when you want to get a bigger name, you can do it but don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can be this big juicy one word dotcom when you have like a $25,000 or less budget.

And so it’s really, a lot of it was like just coaching people into being realistic and rather than getting upset with domain owners and going, “Well, they’re asking for this ridiculous price.” Know that it’s an asset class and just like the example I always give is like, “Well, when did your parents buy their house?” They’re like, “Hold on, in the ’70s.” I’m like, “Cool, what do you think they paid for it?” “Oh, it was like $150,000.” I’m like, “What’s the house worth now, you know?” “Oh, 1.5 million.” I’m like, “Well, how would you parents see it if I said, “Look, I’ll give you $100,000 for your house?”

Kevin: It’s a great analogy.

Morgan: And so, they always go, “Oh well,…” And I’m like, “It’s the same thing. And I bet your parents like researched houses then and looked at the neighborhoods and, you know.” Domain investors don’t just randomly buy names. They research them, they put their time into it, there’s a holding cost to them, did a whole portfolio. There’s a lot of risks the domain investor takes and that sides not seen as much by startups. And so, having them see that side of the equation understand, “Okay, maybe the name you want is going to be out of your budget now, where do you start?” And getting people in more of a kind of like realistic mindset around what they can actually get for their money.

Kevin: Has anyone ever come back and maybe they had that sub $10,000 budget but they’ve come back to you and said, “We just got serious round funding for instance and then now we have X amount of dollars to play with. Let’s go after that one that we couldn’t get for ?”

Morgan: Yep, I’ve helped a number of people in that exact scenario. Yeah, yeah, we’ve got some pretty stellar names.

Kevin: So going back a little bit more in time now in terms of just your experience in the domain community. You’ve had, I was going to say handbook, that’s not the right word. But you’ve had tutorials and ebooks that you’ve made and guides that you’ve created really in the early days of your education.

Morgan: Yeah, that’s a long time since I’ve done it, but yeah, I wrote some of the early stuff.

Kevin: But it was just really not only successful just as something that was distributed and read but understood and really helpful to a lot of people. What kind of information would you impart to those that are either new to the industry or those are kind of looking in from the outside.

Morgan: Well, I always like to give anything I’ve done, whether it’s domain names or startups or started some angel investing, I always like to look at people that are already doing it. And so, for me, it was like when I got started in the domain industry, I was going to domain conferences and talking to people like Michael Berkens, Ammar Kubba and Frank Schilling and all these guys that like were way, way light-years ahead of where I was but that I could really learn from.

And I think that’s the key in any kind of education space. Like, when I wrote my book which was, geez, I don’t know, maybe eight years ago or something like that. You know, I didn’t write it as…I found there was just a problem with misinformation and sensationalism in this industry and I’ve really been very against that probably forever because, you know, this is not an easy industry to make money and this is not one of those like you just buy some domain names, and you’re going to make a bunch of money.

And I think too many books and tutorials in this space, we’re talking about like how you can strike it rich with domains, or how you can make a bunch of money with domains. When the reality is like, I don’t know, my first two years, I lost a bunch of money and learned a lot of hard lessons and then, you know, you really have to have like a budget. You need the time, there’s a lot that goes into it.

And so, for me, I really wanted to educate on like what that journey more realistically looks like versus the sensationalism of, “Look at these names that sold last week. This is sold for this, and this is sold for this. I think if you had a name like that, you could…” And rather say like, “Hey, you’re probably going to buy a bunch of stuff, and most of it’s going to suck and you’re not going to be able to sell it, you’re going to get kind of depressed.”

Kevin: Yeah, right. Good. The reality. Yeah.

Morgan: Then you’re going to drop some [cross talk 00:14:04], “Screw this stuff,” and then like…But if you stick with it and you learn, you could probably chisel out a little niche for yourself.

Kevin: Absolutely, yeah. It’s very rare that there’s sort of immediate success. Some people have that happen, especially with some of the new Gs, it does happen, but it is rare.

Morgan: Sure. Yeah. Same thing with the startup space. Like people look at startups like Airbnb or Uber, and these were not startups with just like we’re overnight successes. Like Airbnb had a very, very hard time raising a $500,000 seed round originally. Like no one would fund them when they originally had the idea, right? And so, like they went through lots of hard times and, you know, for us now, there’s a lot that we’re still figuring out. And that’s like, no matter what is it that you’re doing, any of these entrepreneurial endeavors, I don’t think anyone who tells you or any tutorial book that says there’s some like fast-track path to success, I’m always very, very skeptical of.

Kevin: Do you have other things that you would recommend to those that are new or starting out in terms of like tools or resources in this industry?

Morgan: Yeah. I would say, I mean, the number one thing is just get to a conference as soon as you possibly can. I think the amount of information exchange and networking that happen,s particularly domain conferences is pretty massive. It’s not true of every industry. Most of the conferences I go to now are like retail conferences because we sell in the retail space. That’s very different, that actually is kind of like an insider industry.

So I actually can’t really walk around those places and go like, “Hey, what do you do tell me about it?” Like, I’m not really in the club yet. It probably going to take me longer, so I’m more like kind of fly on the wall. At these conferences, I find domain investors, in general, are very interested in sharing what they do. The only thing I would say is whether it’s a conference, or a blog post, or a thread that’s going on or a form, you know, just make sure to do your homework and make sure that the person that is giving you that advice actually is who they say they are and has done what they say they’ve done.

It is very easy for people to kind of prop themselves up when they’re at a conference or when they’re writing on a blog and to say something like, “Oh I did this and…” Like, just put on your BS meter because there is a lot of BS out there. I don’t mean to say it in a negative way but more in a cautionary way of that, you know, take all the conversations that you have, do the follow-up, do the research, and then figure out.

You may even need to bounce off of people that you know, “Hey, I met this guy, and he said he’s made a killing with .nets, and he said if I just buy a bunch of these .nets, I’ll make a fortune.” And go like, “Do you know this? Can you validate that?” And just make sure because it’s an easy industry for people to come in and go, “Oh, I sold a bunch of stuff,” Because there’s no way to prove anything, right?

Kevin: Yeah.

Morgan: And so, you got to be really careful where you get information. And also, looking at the date when the information was given because there an is expiry date to, you know… Sometimes people will write to me and say like, “Oh, this blog post you wrote in 2012 is so great.” I’m like, “Be really careful with anything that I wrote five years ago.” Because if I said five years ago, here’s what I’m doing and like this is really working right now, I can almost promise you it would be a disaster if you did that now.

And that’s why the information, especially in a fast-moving space like domain investing, you got to stay on top of what’s relevant. And you have to make sure that the people giving you the advice are doing it because they’re motivated not to like make money off of you, or to make themselves so good but because they genuinely like know what they’re talking and want to help.

Kevin: Sure. Just due diligence, I think I have some yeah wise words.

Morgan: Yes.

Kevin: It’s always interesting to kind of…we’ve been around for a little while. There’s various people that have been around either 20 more years, or there’s some that have been around for 20 days.

Morgan: So you’re calling us old?

Kevin: Yeah, we’re getting old. Yeah, that’s right. But it’s always interesting for me to see how people on the outside looking in or those actually that are new. How you would describe this industry to them like if you’re on an airplane and you’re in the middle of the sea all of a sudden and, you know, ask you what you do and you have like a six-hour flight. How do you talk about this to people? This has been a really interesting thing where sometimes there’s that blank stare. Everybody says some will gives you that blank stare like…and then now there’s a bit more talk about how people are starting to kind of, the awareness is growing.

Morgan: Sure, yeah. I think it’s to be honest with you, I think these are just investors. I think that historically if you are an investor, you either invest in the stock market, or you invest in real estate. But like the internet’s been around for a while, this stuff is all evolved, and so I think it’s really just looking at domain names as a new asset class. So usually I explain to people this isn’t necessarily a bunch of startup people, or even some people are entrepreneurs, but not everyone’s really entrepreneurs even as well. It’s really investors.

And it’s just like where do you want to invest your money and whether you invest in real estate or the stock market or domain names, similar process which is educating yourself on the space and learning, “Hey, how can I make investments that give me kind of a meaningful ROI?” I think this is just possibly one of the least known investment spaces and then probably the most misunderstood.

Kevin: Morgan, thanks so much for joining us. Treasure your time, and it’s great to see you as always.

Morgan: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much. I appreciate it.

Kevin: Thank you.
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NamePros

NamePros Videos Coming to SullysBlog.com

You may not realize it, but NamePros has a nice library of domain related videos.  They have done a lot of hard work producing these and they contain great information and dialog from seasoned pros in the industry.  I’ll be working with NamePros going forward to transcribe any new videos and post them here on SullysBlog.com as they become available.

In addition, I’ll be working through the backlog of videos from the library and transcribing them as well, posting them directly to the video section.  I will publish some of the most recent from the past few months as new posts, so look for those start as soon as later today.

I’m looking forward to this new addition to the blog and I hope you are as well.  Would love to hear your thoughts and comments as you have an opportunity to review them.

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women in domaining

Social media presence…contribute approximately 70% of our leads

Victoria Lee Huff is the founder and CEO of The Happy Executive.  She is an Amazon best selling author with The Road to Success, Volume 2 with Jack Canfield.  She’s a sought-after speaker, success workshop leader, executive coach, certified senior advisor, executive director and so much more.  Her company, TheHappyExecutive.com, provides professional speaking, corporate training, and executive coaching services.

Mike:  My first question which I cannot hold back is, how do you manage to do so much?  Are you also a master of productivity and time management?

Victoria:  Holding two leadership roles is a lot to manage some days.  Currently, I am transitioning out of my 10-year business and planning to dedicate 100% of my time to TheHappyExecutive.com.  I do my best to partition my time between the two entities. On a daily basis, my focus is on completing my top 3 tasks by 11 am. Time management is imperative. I also utilize automation with an electronic calendar link and social media campaigns.

Mike:  Tell me about The Happy Executive.  What type of clients do you cater to and what are they expecting to gain from your services?

Victoria:  TheHappyExecutive.com provides strategic marketing, coaching, speaking, sales training, team building, custom workshops and social media campaign building services to corporations and individuals.

Mike:  thehappyexecutive.com is an easy to remember and catchy name.  How did you come up with it?

Victoria: Thank you Mike.  I created TheHappyExecutive.com to serve myself and other busy executives doing their best to juggle a multitude of responsibilities at work and at home.  Often times, this juggling leads to a persistent state of overwhelm. Being a leader and enduring life is not acceptable. I wanted to remind other busy executives to enjoy life and create happiness for themselves and their staff every day.  If we are not happy with the way things are then we must learn to do some things differently.

Mike:  I see you leverage social media.  How much does that contribute to your business?  

Victoria:  Currently our social media presence and campaigns contribute approximately 70% of our leads. The other 30% are sourced from networking events and speaking engagements.

Mike:  I also spotted a before and after picture on your Twitter account.  Wow, even the before pic looks great.  Are you also a fitness trainer?

Victoria: Thank you Mike. I am not a fitness trainer, just a fitness competitor. Within all of our coaching engagements, strategies are discussed and agreed upon to help executives meet and exceed their health goals.

Mike:  Although you are not running an online store, it appears that your business niche depends heavily on your website and word of mouth.  Is that a fair statement?

Victoria: Yes, that is a fair statement. We will be adding an online store with various e-learning opportunities this year. Besides our web site and personal referrals, we are building joint ventures and affiliate programs.

Mike:  What is the most challenging aspect of developing your professional persona online?

Victoria:  The most challenging aspect is the differentiation in a crowded marketplace. It is important to narrow your niche focus to about an inch wide and a mile deep vs. a mile wide and an inch deep. It is within this narrow space that our avatars are identified. We also learn where and when to meet our avatars online.

If you like this post and want to sponsor it on Domaining.com, click HERE.

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Women in Domaining

Women in Domaining: Kathy Nielsen – Neustar

Kathy’s digital career began in online advertising sales and management with BabyZone.com, a company that was eventually acquired by Disney. Her next adventure was to help build a group of content properties under a family of ecommerce sites owned by the eToys.com umbrella (Poshtots.com and BabyUniverse.com). In 2008 she joined Sedo as their Director of Brokerage. During her time at Sedo she served as Director of Strategic Alliances, then Director and VP of Business Development.

With a growing affection for new gTLD industry, she joined a domain name registry, .Green, as Executive Director of Operations and Channel Relations to help prepare .Green for the public launch. Today she works with Neustar, continuing to help educate consumers about domains, building and executing marketing programs, managing channel partnerships and developing premium name sales and auction strategy. She is active on the end user side as well, supporting several clients in domain acquisitions and helping them build domain name strategies.

Mike: How long have you been in the domain industry? Tells about your start at BabyZone.com.

Kathy: I’ve been in the domain industry since January 2010 and got my start with Sedo. But it was my work at BabyZone that really introduced me to the world of online publishing. It was the very early days of online advertising so a main component of my work there was educating about the benefits of online advertising to businesses that didn’t understand how powerful it could be to reach new customers and grow a business. We had a portfolio of directory type websites where each major city had a home on Babyzone.

I started out in my home town of Minneapolis at Babyzone.com, on the ground floor, selling online advertising to local businesses. The amazing part was seeing how some of the small businesses, like a baby photographer, could buy an inexpensive, yearly listing on our site, and it resulted in so many leads that they had to expand their business. I saw many companies that took a chance, dabbled in online advertising in those early days, who grew to be very successful. There were also major, national advertisers as well on Babyzone, but what I found most satisfying was seeing the impact that an increased online presence and traffic had on the smaller businesses.
I was lucky enough to be offered a job in Boston to come and build a network of regional ad sales reps and grow the revenue for Babyzone’s local sites.

Mike: You’ve played several roles in the business and at different companies. Did you ever feel that being a woman somehow put you at a disadvantage?

Kathy:  I never used to think about it much but have reflected on that a bit more recently. I am the youngest of 6 kids and my 5 older siblings are all boys. I grew up in a world where I was always in that mix and it seemed natural to me. One of my first jobs out of college was at an industrial tool manufacturing company. I remember many challenging times there because I was a woman. I can’t say it ever affected promotions, pay, etc. but there was certainly a disadvantage. Working in that male-dominated workplace environment was awful. It was constant – inappropriate behavior all the time that created a such a bad environment. Being subjected to that environment every day just wears on you emotionally and all I really wanted to do was work. Maybe I was too young to feel any fear, but I never thought it was OK or that it was normal because it was a male dominated industry. I always spoke my mind if anyone crossed the line. I’m not sure how I came across on that front, but if nothing else, I definitely helped raise awareness of the issues at that company and there was positive change.

Today, I’m extremely fortunate working with Neustar. I am on an absolutely fantastic team of highly motivated people, many of which are women. I greatly value each and every one, it’s probably the most motivating team I’ve ever worked with.

Mike: Have you had one or more mentors in your career? How has that helped?

Kathy:  A few people come to mind immediately. Tim Schumacher at Sedo was really the first person in my career that was great at encouraging me to try new things, knowing I would succeed with some and fail at others but in the end, learn and grow.

I have to say that the women in the domain industry have always been very incredibly supportive and open. If I ever have a question or want to float an idea by someone, I have this built in network of very talented people, in all areas of the industry, and that has been invaluable.

The two I look up to the most and from whom I have learned so much, come from the launch days of .co. I was fortunate enough to work with Lori Anne Wardi and Crystal Peterson during the launch of .co while I was at Sedo. They are fearless, smart and did a wildly successful job with .co. In the years between, they were always right there if I ever needed advice or support in any way. They have both grown into much larger roles in the industry and I’m lucky enough to be working with them today at Neustar. Grateful!

Mike: After all your success this far, what struggles do you face on a daily basis?

Kathy:  Ha! It’s been the same for a long time.
#1 reaching the target audience
#2 explaining the value prop of a domain – such a basic thing but so many different answers to this based on who you are speaking to.
#3 the slow pace of change in a niche, ecommerce world.

There are honestly so many amazing naming options out there for businesses, individuals, organizations, and everyone in between. From super premium names, to great new descriptive domains, to category killers, brandable names and more, there really is something for everyone. The trick at the ecommerce level is understanding the intent of the individual user and helping to present the best and most meaningful options to them. Today, that experience is so different in the domain world depending on where you shop, and every sales outlet has vast amounts of room for improving in the future. Luckily, we’ve got technology on our side and things like machine learning and AI should be able to play an increasing role in improving that domain buying experience for the consumer in the future.

Mike: What is the biggest challenge, if any, that millennial women face in the industry or business in general?

Kathy:  I have always worked in very male dominated industries but felt comfortable and fit in – probably due to my life growing up with five older brothers. But I never really felt like it was OK to just be me, a girl. This wasn’t a conscious decision, it just happened. Since I worked mostly with men, I always felt like I had to act more like one of the guys, just like I was with my brothers. When I worked with women, it was a totally different atmosphere and a refreshing change but then I found myself wishing there were some men on the team to balance out the dynamics.

As I began to work in more diverse teams with more of a gender balance, I saw the different dynamics at work and it was amazing. More personalities, more backgrounds, more (or fewer) egos at play – the diversity of the team brings a more open set of eyes to topics. It makes all the work we do simply better.

The importance of diverse and balanced teams can’t be understated. I’d encourage millennial women to seek them out. If you go on a job interview and don’t see any women in the company, or in leadership roles, that’s a big red flag. In the world of technology, it’s not easy to be balanced. Seek out those companies who value diversity. Help and support other women in technology so that they too can thrive and succeed in the industry. This will ultimately create a positive working environment for everyone. Don’t hold back, be yourself. Don’t ever stop learning, speak up, ask questions, participate, engage and bring your diversity to the table.

Mike: You seem like a busy woman, working both sides of the fence when it comes to domaining. How do you manage to keep a healthy work life balance?

Kathy: Personal and family time are both really important to me. Outside work and school, we’re very laid back and not a heavily scheduled family. I’m not running from work to take the kids to soccer, then hockey, then somewhere else like a lot of families do. We all pitch in to make the work/life balance work for us. My kids, my husband, all have busy lives, and we respect each other and help each other. Sometimes, you just need a break. We know its ok if you just feel like doing absolutely nothing on a Saturday or Sunday but binge watch a show or lay in bed and read all day. We also like to do things together like travel, go to a museum, a concert, a play, a soccer game, snowboard, hike, mountain bike, etc. Making time to get out together and experience new things is a big part of keeping our balance.

Mike: What would you say has been the biggest advance in the domain industry over the past decade and why?

Kathy:  I think the biggest advance has been with the registrars and their advances in ecommerce. Before they could sell one TLD, at one price, period. They can now offer more products (TLDs), at variable pricing, from a wide variety of sellers (aftermarket premiums, registry premiums, standard domains). This is great because it makes it so much easier for the consumer to find what they want in one place. It’s not complicated. There is still a lot of progress to be made but I’m optimistic that competition and innovation will drive more change.

Mike: What has been the toughest decision you have had to make in your. Domaining career?

Kathy:  Leaving Sedo. Sedo is a great company full of people I really enjoyed working with. Moving on to new challenges is always difficult but also rewarding.

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Dial-a-Domain – Is that opportunity calling?

In the late 1980’s David Fesbinder had a vision of the great potential of vanity 800 numbers. He founded Dial 800 (Dail800.com), a company whose list of clients includes AT&T, Chevrolet, Cox Communications, Waste Management, The Perrier Group, Electronic Arts, Northrop Grumman and Time Warner. He was responsible for the acquisition of 1-800-COLLECT, the most successful vanity number in history. David is now with 1800PayPerCall.com.

Mike:  How did you stumble upon vanity numbers in the 80’s and what made you think this could be a big deal?

David:  In the late 1980’s, even though few companies at the time were using vanity 800 numbers, I saw the trend to use them increasing.  Also, in the early 1990’s a new law allowed one to move their toll-free numbers from one carrier to another.  This was a big change, since a toll-free number that was previously restricted to service with a carrier in one state,  could now be moved to a national carrier like AT&T.

Mike:   Switching from the 80’s to the 90’s, I could see the natural transition (at least in hindsight) into domain names, or in this case, complementary domain names.  How did you identify this bridge?

David:   It only made sense to integrate both domains with their matching numbers.

Mike:  How has pairing vanity numbers and domain names been working out.  Can you provide some examples?

David:   A lot depends on the industry your speaking of.   But, even if a particular industry does not commonly use vanity 800 numbers, having a good one that matches their domain looks impressive.  Especially today, when there is a natural suspicion as to whether a particular online company is legitimate, having a toll-free number that matches their domain name can be an indication that this company is not fly by night.
In the right industry, a vanity 800 number can be the nucleus of a startup.  Look at 1-800-FLOWERS, 1-800-DENTIST, 1-800-CONTACTS to name a few.  In their case, the vanity number may be more valuable than the actual domain name.

Mike:   When a business gets a matching domain and number, you are essentially providing them with branding.  Is that an unintentional byproduct?

David:   A great vanity toll-free number is one that tells you what you selling, who you are and how to reach you, such as 1-800-COLLECT did.    An 800 toll-free number that spells the exact generic name of a sought-after service or product is extremely valuable.  For instance, a company like 1-800-FLOWERS is not only a leader in their industry but when their competition advertises, they cannot help but mention “flowers”, which inevitably strengthens 1-800-FLOWERS brand.

Mike:  Is the growth of the internet, in any way, diminishing the value of vanity names or phone numbers in general?

David: Definitely.  Phone numbers were really the only way to immediately contact a business before the internet.   On the other hand, today where competition is so fierce between online businesses, those a matching vanity 800 number can now have an edge.   And the bottom line is that an inquiry via phone, which means the caller wants direct contact with a salesperson, is considered much more valuable than an inquiry made online.

Mike:  I understand you provide tracking, routing, and analysis of these phone numbers as well.  What does that mean and what does that provide for your clients?

David:   Shared use or call routing can provide a very valuable tool for integrating national marketing with local marketing.   For instance, we have the number 1-800-PODIATRIST which can be promoted via our domain 1-800-PODIATRIST.com.  When any call is made in the U.S., it is automatically routed to the podiatrist located closest to him.  In effect, we could give hundreds of podiatrists exclusive rights to 1-800-PODIATRIST in their local area, and the leads are generated from just one national ad campaign.

Call tracking and other types of analysis can give you detailed insights into how to optimize your ad campaigns, caller satisfaction, etc..

Mike:  One major risks businesses face is not keeping up with the ever-changing trends.   Is there another emerging technology you are watching for or thinking about for the future?

David: Perhaps SullysBlog.com is at the forefront of a trend right now by bringing to the attention of your followers what are the great advantages of a matching number/domains.  I would like to give you an example of how far this concept can go.  We have 1-800-2Day-Air and 2DayAir.com as well as 1-800-Free-Offer and 1800FreeOffer.com.  Since these are already well known generic brands, it should not take much marketing to have such numbers/domains go viral.

This is a new approach to the creation of a startup in that we’re working backward, starting with an already known brand that is represented by a matching number/domain.

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3 Reasons Why Your Domains Aren’t Selling

Many people enter the domain industry thinking they can accumulate hand registered domains and turn them into quick cash.  Hell, I was one of those people.  Maybe you have had some luck with a few of your names but now you hit a dry spell.  No bites in weeks, or maybe months.  If you could just land another buyer, you’d be back on track to that fortune you’re hoping to make.  So let’s take a step back and see why your domain names aren’t selling.  Let me preface by stating this is all coming from my own, hands-on, personal experience.

Reason 1 – Your Domains Suck!

Alright, that’s a little harsh, and I’m typically a “sugar coat the difficult messages” kind of guy.  But we’re trying to be honest here, right?  Let me ask you this.  Did you do your homework on each of the domains you registered?  Did you look at the global monthly search volume to see if there are a decent amount of exact match searches?  Did you check Estibot for a value estimate to get a “feel” for the value of the name?  Did you do a Google search for the exact term to see if others are investing advertising dollars on these key terms?  Did you find websites based on the key terms that lead you to believe there is a market for this name?  While none of these in part or in whole is a conclusive formula, these are the basics.

If you haven’t done this, why not go back and do it now.  See which of your names score higher and put your effort in them.  Put your focus on where you will get the best bang for your buck.  Don’t hesitate to cut your loses.  Even if you don’t have ANY quality domains.  Start over if you need to, but don’t waste your time trying to sell names that no one wants to buy.

Reason 2 – You’re Not Trying Hard Enough!

Let’s assume your names are decent enough that you get past reason 1.  The next reason your domains aren’t selling is because you’re not trying hard enough.  This isn’t like Apple selling iPhones, people aren’t lining up to buy your domains.  If they are, I doubt you’d be reading a post with this title.  Unless you have incredible names, more than likely you are going to have to pursue the buyer as opposed to the buyer pursuing you.  Sure, it happens, but not as often as we’d all like.  You have to put some effort into it.  Get them on all the right venues, contact businesses in the market related to the name, find non-domain related forums on the term and build up some rapport, reach out to others who have experience selling similar names.  There are many ways, but you need to work to get your product out there.

Keep in mind, if you are suffering from Reason 1, even if you try hard, no amount of effort is going to pay off.  Especially in the long haul and you’ll be muddying the waters for when it comes time to sell quality names.

Reason 3 – You’re Not Good At Reason 2!

If your names are decent and you’re working hard to sell them, but you still can’t, then you’re not very good at selling domain names.   But fear not, as with anything, the more you try and fail the better you get.  You can shorten the learning curve by studying sales, reading books, following forums and blogs, and asking questions of more experienced forum members.

In my experience, these are the reasons I have found that domains don’t sell.  The good news is that you can act upon each one of these to make improvements and work smarter toward your ultimate goal.

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Women in Domaining: Natasa Djukanovic, CMO of Domain.ME

An economist by education, Natasa Djukanovic is the CMO of Domain.ME, the international tech company that operates the internet domain “.ME.” She’s spent her entire career at the intersection of banking, social media, leadership and technology, and is constantly trying to figure out the secret to being in three different places at the same time.

Natasa is also a co-founder of a local NGO Digitalizuj.me which is a not-for-profit organisation that examines the transformative power of technology through various projects and lectures.

Through her effort to help the community she started with her friends a conference Spark.me, which is today one of the biggest tech/business conferences in Southeast Europe.

I last connected with Natasa back in 2011, so it’s long past due that we catch up.

Mike:  Natasa, it’s been quite a while since I last interviewed you.  What has changed for you and dot ME since 2011?

Natasa: Well, everything changed. And yet, nothing changed. We managed to almost reach the long term goals we established at that time. For us at the time the most important goal was to create a strong and safe brand. We did a brand health research in 2017 and were quite please to see that we are perceived as a strong and reliable brand. The numbers are quite as we expected, we survived the big turbulence of the market called new TLDs, mostly unshaken, and kept the profit. I have, in the meantime, grew old and mature :), although always strategically focused, now a little bit more flexible and adjustable. I started mountaineering and that activity gave me a completely different perspective on business, leadership and changing environment.

Mike:  Is there a woman that inspires you as a business leader, either in or outside of the domain industry?

Natasa:  She is more a combination of different women with their strength and their fragility, their determination and their emotionality. My inspiration is a combination of Marisa Meyer, Sheryl Sandberg, Merrill Streep, my mom, my aunt and my daughter. And they are all different, with all of their virtues and faults.

Mike:  You’ve been asked to speak, and have spoken, at several different events and business around the world.  What does that mean to you?

Natasa: I had a big fear of public speaking. My voice would tremble and it would sound like I am crying. It was embarrassing. I was determined to fight that fear, like I am fighting any fear. I am very proud to say I am over that, and people started calling me to give motivational speeches. It feels good now, because the feedback is good and it seems to me that I help people define certain fears in their pursuit for better life.

Mike:  Not only are you CMO of Domain.ME, but you also have other causes such as Digitalizuj.me and Spark.me.  Tell me about these organizations and how do you balance this all?

Natasa: Digitalizuj.me (digitize.me in translation) is an NGO that I founded with a couple of friends back in 2011 with the goal of helping the local Montenegrin community educate for new technologies. Today we employ 3 people, and have a joint project with UNICEF around creativity and entrepreneurship for children. It is recognized in Montenegro as a startup community, an organizer of workshops after which you can find a job, and lately educator in programming. Spark.me is a conference, sponsored and organized by the .ME registry. I am always afraid I am too enthusiastic and subjective about it, but I’ll tell you that 500 people come every year from all over the region, and stay in the conference room for 8 hours straight. The conference happens in a hotel at the beach and there is sun outside, it’s a sandy beach and the sea is light blue. But everybody is listening to the presentations. And the world renown speakers keep coming back. My balance is strictly connected to great team around me. I can rely on them, and they can rely on me.

Mike:  Do you feel you have faced any challenges in your career over the years due to the fact that you are a women?  How have you overcome them?

Natasa: Montenegro is a very patriarchal community, but women here were always working and had an opportunity to build careers. My aunts were some of the most successful people in my home town, and I am raised with the feeling that women can do everything a man can do, from chopping wood to managing a company, raising kids, and taking care of their man. There is a saying here that a man is a head of the house, but the woman is a neck. And that is true. In many ways it places a special burden on women in Montenegro, but it also opens many doors. My aunts made fun of me and my housework choirs, as I never liked to cook. On the other side when I started working, I started managing projects very early and when I entered a meeting once, the business partner who sat at the table asked me for coffee. He taught I was a coffee lady. I brought him coffee and sat close to him and started asking questions and kept insisting we can’t accept his conditions in a deal we were trying to arrange. He was very confused at first, and then started laughing at his mistake. I overcome these perceptions by accepting them first. Yes I can be a coffee lady. But then if you are decisive and persuasive enough you can turn that in opportunity. I am not saying it’s easy for every women if they are strong enough. For some of them life is much harder.

Mike:  What impact have the new gTLDs had on .ME, if any, and what has been your marketing strategy to stay competitive?

Natasa: Of course new gTLDs had an impact on .ME. Mostly in terms of the price on a domain, which means revenue. Their marketing strategies shook up the market. It did give some kind of global awareness on domains, but in the end, I think it all calmed down, and didn’t change much. Our strategy certainly didn’t change much. We were perceived as somebody who changed the industry and we just kept doing different and creative things to stay on top. Both with end customer marketing and the relations with registrars. I think the industry is much more alive and energetic today.

Mike:  Do you consider yourself a mentor to any women in the industry?

Natasa: Not in the industry. Not really. I do mentor, however, startups and have some women that I mentor in Montenegro, and help them around marketing and business management. I am very proud of their achievements.

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Exclusive Interview with Lars of DNForum.com

I want to say it was Garmin running shamer, pro-blogger, and green-thumber Shane Cultra who first dropped the news about the new owners of DNForum.  Shortly after there was a mixed buzz on social media and blog comments reflecting the reaction of the domain community.  Some were delighted that some hope was being infused back into the once unparalleled forum while others were less optimistic about its future or even returning to visit the forum under new management.

Lars gave me a little insight into the reason behind the acquisition and the direction the forum plans to take.  I can appreciate his realistic view on what it will take to change course and his optimism that he and his partners, along with the help of the domain community, can make it happen.

Mike:  I have not been an an active part of DNForum.com in the past, but what can be expected as the forum continues on?

Lars: In the past DNForum.com was the go-to place for professional domain investors to talk and trade domain names. Our goal is to expand and develop on that past and to provide a safe and filtered forum experience focused on quality content.

Mike:  Taking on a forum in any industry is a huge responsibility.  What made the three of you decide to tackle this?

Lars: Each of us have been paid members of DNForum.com for a great many years and carry a lot of affection for the place. As such it was a pain to follow its downward slope into oblivion and its turbulent changes in management in recent years. When the chance offered itself to purchase the place we could not let it go and jumped on it. Further we believe in the potential for righting the ship and that DNForum.com can be a healthy business again.

Mike:  There has been a little bit of a mixed buzz around the forum. Blogger surveys, post comments, etc.  Some folks wishing you good luck and suggesting this is the right move while others not as pleased.  How do you react to the domaining public on this?  Do you have some PR barriers to overcome with perception and how do you plan to do that?

Lars: Realistically speaking the image of DNForum.com is at an all time low. The interest, traffic and content was allowed to leave and certain events in the past also rubbed off a bit of the previous shine. But the good news is that its hard to go much lower from here. To go into a head to head argument with DNForum.com’s detractors would be counterproductive and frankly we don’t want to begin our fresh start with an argument. Further we are firm believers in showing by doing, so we will be trying our best to prove them wrong by holding true to our plans for DNForum.com. Luckily the buzz also included a great many DNForum.com veterans and supporters which has helped us getting business back to the site almost from day one of the takeover.

Mike:  It sounds like some people “grew up” on DNForum and learned much of what they know about domaining there.  What do you see in the forum that others might not?  What is it that makes sense about “saving” this forum as opposed to walking away or trying to create a new one from scratch?

Lars: It is exactly that. It has a history of being the place to talk and trade domains in the professional sphere of the industry. A place where, if you were willing to listen, you could pick up a lot of great knowledge and in the marketplace; actual great domain deals. The site has a lot of cache amongst industry veterans even with its recent turbulent history and still has a lot of business potential from a branding stand point.

Further in our industry it does not hurt us to operate under the category killer domain name of our niche.

Mike:  You have listed several short and longer term goals in your initial announcement.  Are these thoughts that the three of you came up with based on what you feel needs to be done or was there any user input involved?

Lars: I have to take responsibility for the currently proposed strategy. I have a clear vision of where I think we need to take DNForum.com to re-establish it as a staple of our industry. Going forward we will be asking our community for input on what they would like to see happen at DNForum.com and we will be open for community suggestions. If we find them viable and they fit into the plans we have for DNForum.com.

Mike:  What is your measurement for success?  How will you know if you are succeeding and how long do you anticipate it will take to see results?

Lars: Naturally we look at financial profitability as one of the chief measurements of our success. We hope to get DNForum.com in the green within 3 months of the takeover. But to achieve that we need to reinvigorate our user base and bring them back to table to deliver the quality content DNForum.com needs to flourish. So we really look at user activity as a key performance indicator, we want to bring back our investor crowd to create a working marketplace with no fees for domain name resellers.

Mike:  What do you to critics of the paid membership model?  Are their other alternatives to generating income on a forum?

Lars: Well for us its not the revenue aspect that is interesting. If we wanted to focus on membership revenue we would go the subscription route instead and not offer lifetime memberships for a one time payment. If we are very lucky the paid memberships will almost cover the server costs. It will never do much more than pay the base bill.

The reason we need a paid membership model is because it allows the more serious voices better access to promoting their content. We think that by limiting the noise that free access to markets often create, we create a higher quality offering.

Mike:  Anything you would like to add?:

Lars: We would love to see you back at DNForum.com or come for your first visit. In the upcoming weeks and months we will be; fixing old stuff that was broke or missing, sprucing up the design to create a fresh feel, introducing a number of new partnerships and benefits for our paid members and down the line also introducing new functionalities to our board. To make it happen we need all the help we can get and hope you will be a part of it.

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Squeeze.com – Importance of a single keyword domain name

I recently had the opportunity to have a quick, yet valuable exchange with Brent Campbell, COO of Squeeze.com.  Brent is known as being passionate about building successful companies and making the people around him better.  He makes careful well-thought-out decisions supported by data and analytics.  He is driven by a winning attitude and a desire for the team to win as a whole.

Mike:  I’ve heard Squeeze referred to as a “disruptive fintech app.”  Tell me more about Squeeze and why is it disruptive?

Brent:  Squeeze.com is a comparison engine that goes to work for the consumer by tackling your recurring expenses. We compare it all, from mortgages to mobile plans and everything in between. Whether you’re looking to purchase your first home or just shave a few bucks off your internet bill, Squeeze has your back. We have been referred to as the Travelocity or Expedia for your recurring bills.

Mike:  The domain name is a great one, a single keyword, generic domain name.  Can you tell me how this domain has helped with your branding?

Brent:   Squeeze is such a brilliant word for branding. We are trying to visualize the idea of savings, which is essential to all consumers.  Having Squeeze.com,  a single keyword domain name is vital for a startup trying to make its mark.

Mike:  How does the site generate revenue and how do you plan to expand that in the near future? 

Brent:  Our revenue model is performance marketing based. We allow the user to access free information and tools that will enable them to make better buying decisions. Companies are telling consumers to “Switch” every day. We earn revenue if they switch on Squeeze.com.

Mike:  How did the company acquire the name?  Can you share the purchase price and/or the process you went through to acquire the name?

Brent:  We negotiated off and on for about two years until we felt it was time to pull the trigger. The company that owned Squeeze.com was FUTURE MEDIA ARCHITECTS, INC. We negotiated through uniregistry.com, and we finally got to a point where we felt there was value. They started at $300k, and we ended up a little over six figures.

Mike:  How does one go about getting partners or companies willing to work with a new startup?  I think that’s a challenge many starts face.  How did you overcome this?

Brent:  You have to be persistent and build relationships. Building a startup is never easy, but if you work hard enough and find the right talent, anything is possible.

Mike:  What in your past has best prepared you for where you are at in the business world today?

Brent:   Having great mentors and coaches. Jim Rohn said it best, “You’re The Average Of The Five People You Spend The Most Time With.”

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Women in Domaining: Kate Buckley, Buckley Media Group

This is the first article in what I am looking to add as a weekly series highlighting women in the domain industry.  This week kicks off with Kate Buckley.  Kate was kind enough to share information on her business, philosophy, and the topic of women in the industry.

Kate Buckley is the founder and CEO of Buckley Media Group.  Kate has 23 years in marketing and business development, with deep experience in global domains, brand development, naming, creative strategy, storytelling, and social media. Her background includes large branding agencies (Gray and Landor) as well as 20 years experience with premium domains (CCIN/The Castello Brothers). She is an expert at premium domain consulting and representation, specializing in ultra-premium .COMs. She had two of the 20 biggest domain sales reported in 2016 and three of the top 25 sales in 2017 (led by Refi.com at $500,000). Most recently, she sold inspection.com for $335,000. Kate holds a BA in Advertising/PR, an MFA in Creative Writing, and is a Certified Professional Coach (LCIOC) and Public Speaker (AMA). She is also an award-winning poet, writer and artist (KateBuckley.com).

Mike:  It seems your company, Buckley Media Group, does much more than domain sales.  Can you tell us more about what you bring to the market?

Kate:  I’m a student of human nature, and convinced that the keys to success include not only intelligence, intuition, hard work and tenacity, but a genuine curiosity and a willingness to remain teachable and open. I’m continually evolving my understanding and iterating my processes in order to better serve my client base. To that end, I believe a holistic branding platform better serves companies. Buckley Media Group offers services such as naming, brand story and strategy, visual brand identity, and, of course, premium domain representation—both acquisition and divestiture.

Mike:  I notice you have writers and directors on your staff, which led me to The Story Corp.  Is that a distinct and separate business?

Kate: The Story Corp (and I was thrilled to land the exact match .COM) is a vertical of Buckley Media Group, concentrating on brand story. Let’s face it, with the increasing implementation of AI, computers do math better than people and digital marketing is essentially math. What differentiates a marketer or brand? Storytelling. A good brand story that connects with the end user on a meaningful basis. Which is exactly what a premium domain does—tells a story about the brand that utilizes it—its culture, values (think: leadership and longevity) and investment in consumer trust and ease of use.

Mike: As a female business owner, what do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

Kate: Not being taken seriously. Misogyny and mansplaining is alive and well. I’ve been referred to derogatorily (by a known domainer and entrepreneur) as “that girl from Buckley Media Group.” Can you imagine referring to a 43-year-old male CEO as “that boy from Company X”? Another male domainer on a public forum, in reference to one of my larger reported sales, opined that my success could be ascribed to my gender and appearance. There are many attractive women and men in business (and domaining!), but without expertise, emotional intelligence, strategy, and skill, it’s really just “Congratulations on your face.”

However, there’s a bright side to being underestimated; one might even call it a woman’s greatest advantage in business—you’ll never see us coming till we’re already over the ramparts. Come from a place of confidence, passion, and strength, don’t give energy to detractors and you will win every single time.

Mike:  Do you feel, in your experience, that there are a good mix of males and females in the domain name industry?

Kate: It’s getting better. Back in the day, I was often the only woman at industry events save wives. At the most recent NamesCon, I was delighted to observe many women in attendance, and turning out in full force for the Women in Domaining dinner. It was also fun to catch up with female colleagues—comparing notes and best practices, and supporting one another’s success. Yet, I was recently at an industry event in which a male domain veteran yanked open the back of my dress and peered down my back asking if I had a “tramp stamp.” It took every ounce of my finishing school training not to practice my martial arts. We’ve come a long way, but not far enough.

There are tremendous opportunities for talented women to stake their claim in the domain name industry, and—happily—there are many wonderful and supportive colleagues, both male and female, ready to welcome them to the ranks.

Mike:  You’ve been in the industry for some time.  Tell me what it was like in the early days, working with the Castello Brothers.

Kate: Fun. I was recruited by David and Michael Castello in 1998 to help them take PalmSprings.com to the next level (David had done the initial launch in 1997). It was a thrilling time—the wild west of our industry—David and I would literally stay up all night researching and registering domain names! I learned a lot from David and Michael—they are both visionaries; respect them tremendously, and am very proud of our track record. At one point, with just David and myself monetizing PalmSprings.com, we had the homepage alone doing $1M a year (which was unheard of at the time). We then went on to launch LagunaBeach.com together, which I later sold for the Castello Brothers for $600K. Not a bad ROI.

It’s been fascinating to watch the industry mature, and to watch the public perception catch up with what we’ve known all along—quality .COMs are a critical and indispensable business driver, not merely a novelty.

Mike:  Is there still room for new players in the domain industry, or is it saturated?  What is your advice to someone looking to start a career in the industry, regardless of gender?

Kate: There’s always room for someone smart, hungry, tenacious and strategic. Combine that with integrity, compassion and emotional intelligence, and the cream will always rise to the top.

Read widely and agnostically. Avail yourself of the tremendous industry resources out there. There are so many generous people in our industry who regularly share their time, knowledge and expertise—Ron Jackson, Elliott Silver, Andrew Alleman, Michael Cyger and yourself, just to name a few. Figure out what works and then add your own unique spin to it—iterate as you evolve, and and don’t be afraid to pivot. There’s never a one-size-fits-all approach. Solve interesting problems and lead. Be generous. And above all, if you’re not passionate about this industry, quit. The top performers are those who are curious, passionate and confident in their abilities.

Mike:  What is the best piece of business advice you have been given and why?

Kate: “Listen more than you speak. Seek first to understand, last to be understood. Life is for service.” —B. F. Buckley IV (AKA my dad)

If I am not listening, if I am not curious, do not come to the table with humility and teachability, I cannot effectively solve problems for my clients (and for the companies to whom I sell) because I won’t have truly understood their pain points. Success is a byproduct of having solved a problem that no one else has been able to solve before. You can’t do that if you already believe you have all the answers.

Mike: Finally, you have a powerful quote on your website that reads, “Not having a dot-com Signals weakness.” –PAUL GRAHAM,  FOUNDER OF Y COMBINATOR.”  What does that mean for what we are still calling the “new” gTLDs?

Kate: New gtlds are fine for B2B or bootstrapped startups that later plan to upgrade to a .COM. Premium domains are for companies who want their brands to be taken seriously, even revered; who want to achieve brand notoriety—woven into the fabric of the culture for decades to come.

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Emoji Domains – What do you think?

Emoji domains did not capture me at it’s introduction nor has it become one of my passions.  But hell, domaining didn’t capture me at its introduction either, which is why people call me “Sully” and not “The Domain King.”  So I am not passing any judgement.  I reached out to these three entrepreneurs after seeing numerous tweets about emoji domains and I wanted to learn more about them.  Fellow blogger Alvin Brown dug into this back in January, and did a great job of uncovering information.  But, as always, I have questions of my own.  Let me kick things off by stating for the record that I don’t own a single emoji name… yet.

Emoji Empires is made up by its three co-founders, Michael Rasmussen, Eric Thoni, and Tanner Schenck.  The three partners have collaborated on this interview as they wanted it to come across as one voice.  That voice is Emoji Empires.

Mike:    As co-founders, how did the three of you meet and what brought you together on this mission?

Emoji Empires:  After attending elementary, middle, and high school together, we went our separate ways to some of the nations top institutions, obtaining degrees in various specialties to include; International Business, Marketing & Advertising, and Business Economics. After college, we made our way into respective jobs, putting our college degrees to use, but always possessing a passion for entrepreneurism.

The concept and introduction to Emoji domains was made by good friend and successful Emoji domain investor, Matan Israeli. After much consideration and planning, we instantly saw a huge opportunity for Emoji domains as a new powerful marketing tool to promote brands and businesses. Emoji Empires was founded in search of innovative marketing and branding strategies on the forefront of technology and communication. We believe Emoji Empires was our perfect entrance into entrepreneurism and introducing the world to something meaningful and ‘bigger than ourselves.’ We have attended multiple domain conferences to introduce Emoji Empires and spread the idea of Emoji domains to industry professionals and the world. We have received great feedback and ideas from many different individuals, which has continued to drive us on this new and uncharted path.

Mike: I haven’t really followed the emoji domain trend until now.  When did it begin and how is the growth?

Emoji Empires:  Emoji Empires began registering Emoji domains as early as January 2017, when we saw the unique and innovative opportunity to bring change to the domain industry. Emoji Empires was one of the first large portfolio owners involved with Emoji domains, with a couple others scattered throughout the world. After a couple months of holding our domains and waiting on potential buyers, we realized that this was going to be much different than the current domain resale market. Emoji Empires has been focused on the education and promotion of  Emoji domains, as we believe it will benefit all Emoji domain portfolio investors, companies, and individuals.  Currently the emoji domain market is saturated with sales between domain investors. Emoji Empires has a different business approach with our unique contacts and networking capabilities, we have successfully educated, promoted, and marketed emoji domains to end users. The growth of emoji domains are only inevitable due to the growing increase of usage via messaging and social media. Emojis are not going away anytime soon as they are everywhere.

The earliest registration of emoji domains began in 2001. On April 19, 2001, the first three emoji domains were registered. The process of registering an emoji domain back in 2001 was a very complicated process that very few knew how to do. In 2001, emoji popularity as we see them being used today was nonexistent. Reason being the Iphone did not make its debut until 2005 when emojis made their worldwide debut. So the early adopters is not where the trend begins because only a few individuals had the idea to combine emoji with domains. The emoji domain space really took off n 2015, when Coca-Cola launched a South American advertising campaign using www. ????.ws. In 2016, John Roig launches ❤❤❤.ws, which provided an easy to use platform for registering emoji domains that once was a strenuous process.

Mike:  Tell me about your emoji consulting service.  What are some examples of how you help businesses?

Emoji Empires:  We provide Emoji domain consulting for companies and brands who are unfamiliar with Emoji and are looking to integrate them into their new or current marketing strategy.  Emoji Empires also provides marketers with domain support, best practices for social media, and development of strategies on how to use an Emoji domain to maximize its potential.

We currently have multiple companies involved in our “Try Before You Buy” program; which allows businesses to use any of our domains in our portfolio to ‘test’ the domain out to see if it works within their companies vision and goals. We have received great feedback on this program, as it provides a new and exciting tool for companies to ‘try’ Emoji domains and it doesn’t require any payment or long-term contracts.

Mike:  How do emoji domains really work?  What happens if new emojis are created?  Don’t different platforms, take smartphones for example, use different emojis?

Emoji Empires: “Each emoji character is represented by some universal sequence of characters called Unicode, which is an international programming standard that allows one operating system to recognize text from another operating system.” (http://unicode.org/emoji/). When you type (????????.ws) into your web browser, the browser translates the emoji portion of the domain name into its IDN (in this case xn--2p8h30a.ws), looks up the domain name system information, and then loads the associated website. In this case we are using that Emoji domain as a 301 redirect to our primary website www.emojiempires.com.

Indeed, new emojis are created every year through a governed and strict process of the Unicode consortium, which is made up of large companies, as well as individuals including the three co-founders of Emoji Empires. “The Unicode Consortium is a non-profit corporation devoted to developing, maintaining, and promoting software internationalization standards and data, particularly the Unicode Standard, which specifies the representation of text in all modern software products and standards.” Every year Unicode introduces about 100-150 new Emoji characters.  Once Unicode sets the new ‘standard’ every company that offers an Emoji keyboard (Apple, Google, Facebook, Windows, Samsung, etc.) must then design their version of that Emoji character. The important thing to note is that regardless of the platform or operating system mentioned above, the underlying code & domain name are consistent across all platforms. So, ????????.ws will always be xn--2p8h30a.ws regardless of the device or platform being used. You can see the full Unicode list here.

Mike:  Do you have any data or examples around resale of premium emoji names?

Emoji Empires:  Mike Cyger (DNAcademy) has compiled a detailed guide to Emoji domains which includes a list of “premium” emoji domain resale numbers.

Emoji Empires took part in the first ever Emoji domain auction on NameJet.com this past December 2017.  The highest domain sold during the auction was “????.ws” for USD $3,100.  We expect to see more Emoji auctions on NameJet this year and are currently working with them and Emoji domain investors around the world to continue these specific auctions.

Mike:  Are there any examples of big business leveraging these names?

Emoji Empires: Currently, there are a number of big businesses using Emoji domains including Budweiser (❤????.ws), Sony Pictures (????????.ws), and Phoenix Rising (????.ws). These brands are early adopters to Emoji domains, using them only as redirects to their primary websites. Once consumer awareness increases, big businesses will realize the many opportunities for Emoji domains within their already existing marketing and advertising efforts.

In addition to large brands, we have seen multiple startup businesses using Emoji domains including Weapon Depot (????.ws), Rekindle Candles (♻????.ws), and Renee’s Raw (????????.ws).  Weapon Depot recently announced plans to develop the pistol emoji domain (????.ws) into an open source Emoji URL shortener, with the intent to share the pistol Emoji domain with the entire hunting, camping & fishing communities.

Emoji Empires believes there are many ways for businesses to leverage Emoji domain names, and we want to be the leading Emoji domain company implementing Emoji domains globally.

EVERYONE SPEAKS EMOJI.

Mike:  Could emoji be a trend or just be a fad or is it here for the long haul?  Why?

Emoji Empires:  The widespread popularity of the Emoji language gives people an easier way to express emotion and communicate globally. Businesses have embraced Emoji in marketing & advertising to further connect their brand with new and existing customers. The Emoji domain era is in its infancy, but like mentioned above, once big brands and consumer awareness increases, will we see a real Emoji domain adoption. Emoji domains are short & memorable, transcend language, and stand out as a marketing tool to increase brand recognition and create customer acquisition, like never done before.

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